Michigan Senate panel considers weight increase for electric trucks

October 31, 2023

Keith Goble


One Michigan Senate bill would permit heavier electric trucks on state roadways.

The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met recently to discuss a bill that would authorize electric-powered trucks to weigh up to 82,000 pounds – up from the 80,000 pounds currently allowed.

Since 2017, the state has authorized trucks powered primarily by natural gas to weigh up to 82,000 pounds.

At the time, state lawmakers were told the additional weight authorization was necessary to counter revenue losses of up to 2% to 3% per load for companies operating natural gas-powered trucks.

Next in line?

The weight exception for natural gas-powered trucks and the one being pursued for electric trucks mirror a federal weight exemption. Most states also have one.

Passed by Congress in 2015, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act raised the weight limit for natural gas-powered and electric battery-powered tractor trailers to 82,000 pounds. This rule authorizes states to raise the weight limits for these vehicles on interstates within their borders.

Senate Bill 501

Sponsored by Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D-Trenton, SB501 would allow an electric truck tractor to exceed current axle loading and weight load maximums by up to 2,000 pounds. The gross weight of an electric truck tractor or a combination of an electric truck tractor and semitrailer, however, would be limited to 82,000 pounds.

Benefits touted

Advocates have said the weight allowance is necessary because heavier equipment is required to power trucks operating on electric battery power and natural gas.

Camilleri told the committee the change would allow truck operators to convert to electric trucks without a penalty in the amount of payload they can carry.

“Due to the weight of their batteries, EV semis are heavier than their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts,” Camilleri testified. “This change will make EV semis competitive with other vehicles and will make Michigan statute consistent with federal law. As we work to shift our energy system away from fossil fuels, it’s obvious that trucking needs to be a serious focus of that … especially for short-haul trucking in regions like downriver and southeastern Michigan.”

Opposition voices concern

A bill analysis states that “allowing these heavier vehicles on the road would wear down the roads and bridges faster and require higher funding at the state and local (levels) to maintain road and bridge quality.”

Sen. Edward McBroom, R-Vulcan, voiced concern that the desire to switch technology outweighs concern about what added weight does to highways. He also questioned why the additional weight allowance shouldn’t be extended to all carriers.

“I’m having a hard time understanding why what is good for the goose isn’t good for the gander,” he said.

The Road Commission for Oakland County added testimony in opposition of the bill.

Dennis Kolar, managing director for the commission, told committee members the change should not take place before the state addresses the impact of electric vehicles on road funding.

“As electric passenger vehicles, trucks and commercial trucks have emerged and do not consume fuel, drivers do not pay the related sales and excise taxes to use our highways, roads and streets,” Kolar wrote. “This tax avoidance creates a gap related to road usage and contributions to road funding.”

He added that the road funding shortage in Michigan will grow as electric vehicles continue to increase in market share.

Kolar urged lawmakers to enact “a properly designed set of policies” for heavier electric trucks. LL

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