Trucks would face overhaul to handle change,
Betsy Z. Russell
The Spokesman Review
BOISE A 200-member association of the state's logging
contractors has come out against allowing heavier-weight trucks
on North Idaho's roads.
The idea is being explored by another timber industry group,
which represents timber land and mill owners. The Idaho Forest
Industry Association, in a presentation to lawmakers last
week, said bigger loads are among efficiencies it's looking
at to keep the timber industry viable in Idaho, possibly in
combination with road improvements.
But Roger Sieber, lobbyist for the Associated Logging Contractors,
said this week, "I don't think it fits our market and
the timber industry market, particularly in North Idaho."
The region's roads can't handle larger trucks, he said. Plus,
most log trucks would have to be reconfigured to handle heavier
weights, and such an investment may not pay off -- in part
because the heavy weights aren't allowed on major routes like
the interstate highway system.
"When you look at the increased cost to the individual
hauler, and the damage to our roads and bridges, it just doesn't
add up," Sieber said. "I remain unconvinced that
it's a good idea."
Last year, southern Idaho commodity interests pushed through
HB 395, to allow a "pilot project" on certain southeastern
Idaho routes, where trucks would be allowed to exceed the
current weight limit of 105,500 pounds and go up to 129,000
Another bill that passed the House called for a study of
routes appropriate for a similar pilot project in North Idaho,
from Grangeville north, but that measure died in the Senate.
Freshman Sen. Kent Bailey, R-Hayden, helped get HB 395 out
of committee in the Senate last year in exchange for a promise
from sponsors that they wouldn't try to push the issue up
"I don't support heavy trucks in North Idaho,"
Bailey said. "Now, if the trucking industry would like
to rebuild all our roads and our bridges, then I may rethink
it. I just don't think North Idaho is ready for this."
In a letter to Bailey last spring, lobbyists for seven groups
wrote, "We unequivocally pledge to you that all of the
organizations signing this letter will not seek to add any
state pilot routes in northern Idaho at future sessions of
the Legislature," adding that they'd seek no routes north
of Fruitland, Idaho. That town is more than 175 miles south
The organizations that signed were the Amalgamated Sugar
Co., Idaho Hay Association, Associated General Contractors,
Idaho Milk Producers Association, J.R. Simplot Co., Potato
Growers of Idaho and the Idaho Trucking Association.
Bailey said the southern Idaho pilot project includes a three-year
review of how the heavier trucks affect roads and bridges,
and he wants to see the results before considering any expansions.
Sen. Marti Calabretta, D-Osburn, said, "There's no way
we want those trucks on (U.S. Highway) 95, or any state highway
in the north."
The routes are just too dangerous already, she said.
"My community does not want to see the pressure on the
roads. We share the road with trucks, and we have to be wise
about what we do," Calabretta said.