ATA and AAR put up united front for passage of House transportation bill
February 13, 2012
In an effort to move along a new surface transportation reauthorization, two of the largest and most influential freight transportation industry associations—the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued a joint statement calling for the passing of H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, with an emphasis on truck productivity, a five-year, $260 billion bill.
While the ATA and AAR have been at odds over the years for issues relating to truck size and weight, which was initially part of H.R. 7, the bill initially called for a measure to increase truck weights from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds on interstate highways at the discretion of states that want to have them. This provision was focused on raising the weight limit to 88,000 pounds for car carriers and 97,000 pounds for six-axle trucks.
But soon after the bill was introduced, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted against this provision by a 33-22 measure and drafted an amendment that requires the United States Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive three-year study of the safety and pavement performance of the widespread use of bigger trucks, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
“[A]s the U.S. House of Representatives prepares for floor consideration of H.R. 7…the Association of American Railroads and the American Trucking Associations join together to urge Members to oppose any floor amendments that would modify any of the truck size and weight provisions in the bill that was reported out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 3,” said Edward Hamberger, AAR president and CEO, and Bill Graves, AR President & CEO, in the joint statement.
They added that that the long-term reauthorization of the nation’s critical surface transportation programs is necessary and long overdue, explaining the passage of H.R. 7 by the House is an important step in the process of reaching an agreement of a long-term, fully funder surface transportation bill.
ATA Vice President of Communications and Press Secretary Sean McNally told LM that while the ATA and AAR had their difference over truck size and weight provisions while the bill was being marked up by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, both groups acknowledge there are a lot of good things regarding productivity in the bill.
“This is taking one potentially controversial item off the table as the House tries to pass the bill and move to the Senate, then move to conference and into a final piece of legislation that gets signed into law,” said McNally. “Outside of the truck productivity issue there is a lot we are happy to see in not just the House bill also the Senate bill [MAP-21]. With regard to the productivity issue in the House, we are disappointed that the vote went the way it did, but in the interest of getting a bill that is now 30 months past due, let’s all pull on the rope in the same direction.”
McNally said there are still differences that need to be worked out so the sooner they are addressed, will lead to benefits for all transportation users.
Backers of increased truck weights say it would result in fewer trucks on the highways, less pollution, reduced emissions, bolster productivity and perhaps save as much as 2 billion gallons in diesel annually. And those with an opposing view maintain that longer and heavier trucks are not the answer to operational improvements and congestion reduction.
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