The full House of Representatives will take up a federal “Highway Bill” this week, including provisions impacting weight limits on interstate highways.

The House will take up H.R. 3763 (the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015) on Wednesday, Nov. 4, according to Bob Gray, editor of the Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives’ NDFC Newsletter. The bill was passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Oct. 22.

Late last month, the House passed The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015 (H.R. 3819), extending federal authorization and transit programs through Nov. 20.  (Read House approves Highway Bill extension, extends PTC deadline.)

According to Gray, U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) will offer an amendment on the House floor which would allow – not mandate – states (17 in all) that restrict truck weights ontheir interstate systems to 80,000 lbs. gross weight to increase that level to 91,000 lbs. The trucks would have to add an extra axle to compensate for the heavier loads.

The House bill already contains a provision (Section 1423) allowing only bulk milk trucks to get special permits from states to carry heavier loads of milk on their interstate highways.

Nearly 200 of the nation’s manufacturers, shippers, carriers and allied associations of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP) sent a letter urging members of Congress to include the “Safe, Flexible and Efficient Trucking Act,” H.R. 3488, as an amendment to the Highway Bill.

In its letter, the coalition outlined key safety features of the legislation, which would give states the flexibility to allow six-axle trucks on Interstate highways. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is a member of the coalition.

The dairy industry relies heavily on commercial trucks to get milk from the farm to plants and to move dairy foods from the plants to grocery shelves across the country, according to IDFA. Because the products are perishable, they must move quickly and efficiently. Outdated federal transportation rules now force trucks to leave plants when they are less than full because the trucks reach the current weight limit before they meet the capacity limit.

The coalition also shared data about the 91,000-lb., six-axle configurations found in the recent U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Truck Size and Weight Study. Among its findings, DOT concluded more productive trucks lower congestion costs, fuel costs, and carbon and other emissions. They also found vehicle stability and control are virtually unchanged on heavier six-axle vehicles. Truck weight reform would also reduce pavement costs significantly.

“The more than 200 members of CTP strongly encourage you to co-sponsor and support the SAFE Trucking Act,” the letter said. “The bill is a measured, reasonable approach to safely address the current capacity crunch, reduce costs and utilize fewer trucks to deliver a given amount of freight.”

The Senate has already passed a long-term Highway Bill, so when the House completes its work, the two bills will be “conferenced” to work out the differences, before being passed in final form and sent to President Obama.

Sources: Congress.gov, NDFC Newsletter and International Dairy Foods Association