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Mar. 17, 2014

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 16 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE MARCH 17.2014 for larger trucks in the next surface trans- portation bill than the last time around. Through intense lobbying, the rail indus- try and safety advocates convinced the majority of House members to block lan- guage that would have increased combined gross vehicle weight limits from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds in the last bill, known as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21. Though they may wish to bolster their pro-business image by helping shippers with truck capacity issues, few legislators want to open themselves up to criticism that they voted to make high- ways more dangerous. The defeat in the last surface bill appears to have spurred the ATA to change tactics. "I think there's some merit to the recent effort on the 'twin 33s' (twin 33-foot trail- ers, rather than 28-foot units) in the LTL (less-than-truckload) industry, because it's not a weight issue, and even though it is a length issue, it's minimal in its impact on the average driver, and its productivity impact is really significant," Graves said, adding By Mark Szakonyi THE NEXT BATTLE in the U.S. in the ongoing fight over increasing truck weight and size is on the horizon, as the House and Sen- ate begin work on the next federal surface transportation bill. However, the face-off of the American Trucking Associations and some major shippers versus the rail industry and safety advocates is looking to be more nuanced than in the past. The ATA has signaled it will lobby Congress to allow larger sizes and weights for specific equipment, rather than seeking across-the board weight increases, as it did during the creation of the last sur- face transport bill in 2012. "I think the conversation about heavier and longer trucks is just a tough hill to climb for this industry," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves told the JOC. "We've got to be very incremental, as opposed to overreach- ing on a subject that has folks for business reasons, and that would be the railroads, and emotional reasons, that would be the anti-truck groups, opposed to everything." The tactics may have been tweaked, but the ATA's general message to Congress remains: Larger trucks are needed so that shippers already facing tightening capacity because of increased federal regulation don't have to pass on higher operating costs to con- sumers, and more productive trucks equate to fewer drivers on the road, reducing accidents. That message has yet to connect. The rail- roads have successfully lobbied Congress to not increase weight limits for trucks, arguing the trucking industry doesn't pay its fair share for wear and tear on the highways and heavier loads would only exacerbate the problem. The Association of American Railroads, the main lobby for the U.S. Class I railroads, says the trucking industry underpays by 26 cents per gallon, and would need to pay $1.17 more in diesel tax per gallon to pay for additional wear and tear caused by heavier trucks. The ATA doesn't agree with the number, but the group said it supports higher gas and sales taxes and could back a diesel-only rise but only under certain circumstances. Finding a middle ground is unlikely, and even if a compromise were reached — perhaps through the release of a federal study — safety advocates would still fight heavier trucks. The big question is whether the ATA will have better fortune in seeking language Those for and against longer and heavier trucks gear up for the next battle on Capitol Hill The ATA's message to Congress remains: Larger trucks are needed so shippers already facing tightening capacity don't have to pass on higher costs to consumers.

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