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Politics & Government

Congress Gives Idaho Go Ahead To Raise Truck Weight Limits

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Trucks parked in front of Idaho's Capitol

In Congress’ recent omnibus spending bill there was a small, largely unnoticed provision that applied only to Idaho. But it had nothing to do with spending. The provision allows Idaho to raise weight limits for big trucks.  

Twenty-five years ago Congress froze interstate trucking weight limits at whatever each state was permitting at the time. In Idaho, that has meant limiting trucks to 105,000 pounds even though some surrounding states allow for a lot more. Idaho’s trucking and agriculture industries have been trying to get that changed ever since. Now, Idaho can raise the limit because Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho put a rider into the federal spending bill. 

Idaho Trucking Association president Julie Pipal says it would have made more sense in the transportation bill but when it comes to Congress one has to use the tools at one's disposal.  

“And because we have a representative that has the respect and authority on the appropriations side, this rider ended up in the omnibus bill,” Pipal says.

Pipal says the issue is important to some big Idaho companies. She says a higher weight limit means cost savings for companies hauling large amounts.

“There is a lot less on the logistical side and more efficiency,” she says. “We have to hire fewer drivers to haul the same amount of cargo.”

Pipal says nationwide there is a shortage of qualified truck drivers.

Amalgamated Sugar is one of the companies that has been lobbying for this change for years. Pipal says it does a lot of business in Utah where permits are granted up to 129,000 pounds. If the limits were the same in Utah and Idaho, Amalgamated could save money by using fewer trucks.

“Rather than hauling six loads, they can do it in five,” she says.  

Many people think that heavier trucks would mean more wear and tear on Idaho’s roads and bridges, but Pipal argues that increasing the weight limit would mean fewer trucks on the road so actually less wear overall.

The weight limits haven’t changed yet. The rider gave Idaho’s legislature permission to raise them. But Pipal says she’s confident lawmakers will do it in the session that starts next week. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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