U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) introduced The Commercial Truck Safety Act, legislation intended to ease interstate commerce and enhance safety on highways and secondary roads.
The bill would eliminate what Snowe identifies as inequitable government regulation permitting six-axle trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on some states’ interstate highways and not others.
“When it comes to trucks on our Interstates, the Department of Transportation has created an inequitable system where some states, including Maine, must seek individual exemptions from year to year while 27 states benefit from permanent exemptions,” said Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over truck safety.
Presently, trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds in the remaining 23 states must either unload cargo or travel to their destination on winding secondary roads through small towns.
During a recent pilot program allowing six-axle trucks up to 100,000 pounds on Maine’s interstates, there were 14 fewer crashes compared to the previous year and no fatalities involving six-axle trucks.
The Commercial Truck Safety Act would end the need for states to seek individual weight limit exemptions from Congress by granting states like Maine the authority to petition the Secretary of Transportation for a permanent waiver. The legislation would authorize the Secretary to institute a three-year pilot program waiving the weight limit and requiring the creation of a safety committee. The committee, composed of engineers, safety advocates, and highway users, would report to the Secretary at the end of the pilot program to determine whether the exemption should become permanent.
“This inequity is not only a matter of safety in our communities, but critical to the vitality of commerce, jobs and industry throughout our state,” said Snowe.
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.