As many reading this know, for years there has been a mismatch between federal and state truck weight limits in Maine.
Federal laws generally require that vehicles not exceed 80,000 pounds on federal Interstates. States may set their own rules on state maintained roads, and Maine has a 100,000 pound limit on its roads. This means that trucks weighing between 80,000 and 100,000 pounds must be diverted off of the Interstate. As a result, they end up traveling down small rural roads and through the centers of many Maine towns.
This mismatch poses a number of challenges to our state and that's why I have been working so hard with the rest of the congressional delegation to fix the problem. Most recently, I worked with House leaders to ensure that a one year pilot program, which increased Maine's Interstate truck weight limit to match state limits, was included in a funding bill passed last year. I have also secured multiple Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearings on the truck weight issue and have been working with a bipartisan group in the House to promote a permanent solution.
But in order to build support for a permanent fix, it is important for members of Congress to realize the real world effect this truck weight change is having on Mainers. That's why I urged Mainers last month to email me stories about how the current truck weight pilot program is affecting them and their community. Since then, I have received many responses.
James Hodges, who is a police officer in Bangor, wrote: "I saw first hand how the routing of heavy tractor-trailers through narrow and congested city streets created a very unsafe environment for the walking and driving public. When the truck bill finally passed it was like a magic wand had removed the majority of these vehicles from our local roads. I can only hope, from a safety perspective, that this temporary measure becomes permanent."
Patricia Kerfoot of Hampden wrote: "I live on Route 1A in Hampden and there has been an appreciable and very welcome reduction in truck traffic since the pilot program started. I am really looking forward to summer when the truck noise at night is very disturbing when windows are open. Hopefully it's going to be a lot quieter this year. I do hope the program is made permanent for this reason, not to mention safety issues and the wear and tear on local roads."
Michael Beardsley of New Gloucester wrote: "As the Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, the increased weight limits help reduce costs for businesses in the state. According to estimates provided to the Maine Department of Transportation, trucks traveling on the I-95 are 14-21 percent more fuel efficient than the same trucks on secondary roads. This has a direct impact on our members' bottom line by reducing travel time, reducing wear and tear on equipment, and saving on fuel expense costs."
Marim Rooney of Hermon, who was a truck driver for over 35 years, wrote: "Hey Mike, just wanted to let you know what a positive impact it's been having the trucks roll down the interstate where they should have been years ago. Not only were they tearing up the secondary roads, like RT#2, but were also a great safety hazard to people pulling out of their driveways."
I agree with these Mainers, and I couldn't have put it better myself. These stories illustrate the strong local support for making this truck weight change permanent.
But despite some progress, some in Congress remain strongly opposed to any changes in truck weight standards anywhere. Because of this, I encourage Mainers to continue to email me by going to my website at www.michaud.house.gov and clicking on "email Mike." Sharing local experiences serves a critical role in building the case for a permanent change to Maine's Interstate truck weight limits.
Mainers deserve a permanent solution to this issue so that we can improve road safety, increase productivity and remain economically competitive with our neighbors. Emailing me additional stories to share will help us get there.