Heavier semi-truck loads are on the edge of rolling into Idaho, but the journey has lasted decades.
Only a House vote and the Governor's signature are left for a bill to let 129,000 lbs loads drive on Idaho's interstate roads. It's a big deal for shippers, who have to downsize loads that come from Montana, Wyoming, Utah, or Nevada -- all of which allow 129 loads.
"When we come into the state of Idaho, we have to break down loads that are already loaded and break them down into several loads in order to get them moving," said Paul Kearsley, a board member of the Idaho Trucking Association.
Increasing weight limits from 105,000to 129,000 pounds has drawn a load of controversy.
"We should get away from the notion of what's best for Idaho in terms of shipping and trucking costs and profitability for that industry, and what's best for the state,” said Dave Carlson, a spokesman for AAA. “That's been our argument for twenty or thirty years."
Carlson worries permitting trucks hauling up to twelve tons more is asking for trouble.
"Big trucks and small cars don't get along very well," he said.
The Idaho Transportation Department has looked into some safety concerns, launching a ten year study in North Idaho. They found the new standards on heavy loads make trucks safer.
"Because it has so many axles, each axle has more breaking power,” said ITD spokesman Vince Trimboli. “So it is heavier, but with more breaking power it has greater control and better ability to stop than say a 105-thousand pound load, which only has seven axles."
There is the problem of access. The bill lawmakers are debating opens up the Interstate, but that's not where things are likely to stop. You could see heavy loads on local and state roads.
"That's where the industry is heading,” said Carlson. “You can't have a truck that weighs 129,000 pounds without having the wherewithal to travel where you want."
Boise lawmakers have raised concerns about the impact to areas around The Connector.
"There is no way to go on that Interstate but off into the cities and even near The [Boise Towne Square] Mall,” said Rep. Melissa Wintrow. “It is a very big mess."
It may be a moot point, given a hidden law for truck access. A federal rule gives trucks the right to go a mile off approved roadways. It's unclear what that means for 129 loads, but if granted it would open up a large swath of the Valley including the areas around The Connector.
Carlson says the picture gets bleaker when you consider semi trucks already cause more damage to the roads than they pay for. He says commuter traffic already pays more than their fair share.
"Passenger cars overpay their share 127% relative to the cost they should be paying," he said.
AAA stands as the sole objector in the Statehouse to the weight change - a change the trucking industry says may not grab your attention.
"You're not going to see it,” said Kearsley. “Once it happens, no one will notice."