WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 – An amendment to the House highway bill that would have allowed for heavier loads of livestock on the nation’s highways failed to receive congressional approval Wednesday after another truck weight limit amendment met a similar fate Tuesday night.

The amendment introduced by Florida Republican Tom Rooney would have allowed states to issue permits allowing “the operation of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 95,000 pounds for the hauling of livestock.” It failed in a 185-240 vote on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.

In a letter to members of Congress earlier this week, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Philip Ellis laid out his organization’s support for Rooney’s measure, saying it would have been beneficial to the animals in transit.

“Unlike most goods shipped by truck or rail, livestock need special attention and shipments are carefully organized to take into consideration the needs and welfare of the animals being transported,” Ellis said. “The industry’s goal is to move cattle between locations safely and as quickly as possible to minimize stress of the animals.”

Ellis said the current laws governing truck weight limits – which in most cases caps truck weight at 80,000 pounds – could lead to “more partially empty livestock trailers, which results in multiple shipments of cattle and more trucks on the road.”

Tuesday night, Wisconsin Republican Reid Ribble was unable to secure passage of an amendment that would have allowed for truck weight limits to be increased to 91,000 pounds so long as the vehicles had a sixth axle. That amendment faced heavy opposition from safety advocates and the railroad industry and was ultimately defeated 187-236.

In a release, Edward Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, said Ribble's amendment would “further destroy precious national infrastructure and cost taxpayers dearly.”

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Shortly after the vote on Rooney’s amendment, NCBA’s Ellis expressed disappointment that the House voted against both amendments and failed to address the mandatory 30-minute rest period rule – a rule requiring truckers to take a break of at least 30 minutes for every eight hours of driving. In a statement, Ellis said for NCBA, “there is nothing to support” in the bill and that the organization “strongly opposes its passage.”

The House is working on a bill that would fund highway and transportation programs for six years. In July, the Senate passed something similar, and the two chambers are hoping to produce an agreement before Thanksgiving. The House is expected to continue debate on 81 amendments to the bill into the night and vote on final passage Thursday.


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