Indiana takes great pride in being “The Crossroads of America.” Our geographic location places us within one day’s drive of 80% of the major US markets. More than $650 billion in goods annually move through Indiana. Our state is ranked No. 1 in pass through highways and No. 3 in freight railroads. Hoosiers have a rich history of making and growing world class products that make our nation and our world thrive. The ability to move those goods and services effectively and efficiently across Hoosier roadways is a critical challenge that, as Hoosiers, we must respond to.
Currently, Indiana takes a commodity-based approach in the authorization of overweight truck permits. Indiana allows trucks on the roads at 80,000 pounds, with the exception of agricultural and wood products, which can go up to 97,000 pounds, and steel coils, which are eligible for an overweight permit of 120,000 pounds. This limited policy approach leaves all other industries at a disadvantage and has resulted in years of policy debate on expansion.
As author and sponsor of House Bill 1190, our priority is to maintain Indiana’s competitiveness and protect Indiana’s roads and infrastructure. The legislation seeks a fair and balanced approach to a moderate expansion of overweight permitting in the Hoosier state.
Contrary to public statements by opponents of the bill, trucks using an overweight permit would be incentivized to add axles to spread out the overall weight of the vehicle. This ensures that pavement impact is minimized and maintenance costs are reduced.
Throughout these conversations, little attention has been brought to the lack of protection the current overweight permit structure provides. Overweight permit holders can truck 120,000 pounds with no requirement of additional axles, only higher permit fees. Ultimately, this subsidizes the cost responsibilities on highway systems for riskier heavy hauling and further compromises the longevity of our roads and infrastructure.
An assumption that an increase in maximum truck weights on interstates of up to 120,000 pounds will come at a great cost to the public proves untrue. Indiana does, and has, allow trucks hauling certain commodities to operate at weights up to 120,000 pounds with an overweight permit. There is no data to suggest that those heavier vehicles experience more crashes than 80,000-pound trucks.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, accident crash data is reported by mileage traveled. When weight inefficiencies in transportation are addressed and fewer trip permits are required, the market inadvertently alleviates the trucking demand due to fewer trips. Consequently, this results in fewer miles traveled and perhaps fewer trucks.
While the opposition has little evidence to support their position, supporters of the bill face real anticompetitive barriers that negatively impact business. Every state that touches Indiana allows transportation companies and truck operators to apply for permits to transport more weight in one load – instead of enforcing arbitrary permitting laws and requiring multiple trips or alternative transportation, as Indiana currently does.
Imagine that a truck driver from Michigan is transporting goods to the state of Kentucky in one truckload. Now imagine that truck driver from Michigan entering Indiana and being required to split that load into two before they can proceed into the Hoosier state. If you are a Hoosier farmer, coal miner, trucker or manufacturer there is no need to imagine these frustrations and missed economic opportunities.
Because of these anticompetitive barriers, surrounding states do not want to transport goods into our state. This creates financial obstacles and, in turn, ultimately increases the number of trucks that are on our roads. We have spoken with Hoosier business operators from our districts and throughout the state who have chosen NOT to expand their operations specifically because of the costs they would have to bear to comply with Indiana's heavyweight load laws.
As a state, we have a responsibility to review all of our state’s laws and regulations to determine if they promote or inhibit economic activity and growth. Increasing the weight limits on trucks carrying Hoosier products in a safe and measured fashion is one small way we can help Hoosier businesses market quickly, safely and efficiently. This bill is being considered in the Senate and we are committed to working together with other policymakers to ensure that HB 1190 passes during the 2021 legislative session.