Pennsylvania bill would implement electric-powered trucks rule, vehicle fee

November 19, 2020

Keith Goble


A bill advancing through the Pennsylvania General Assembly would add it to the list of states to adopt a federal weight exemption for electric-powered trucks. An addition made to the bill would also tap alternative fuel vehicle owners for more money.

The state of Pennsylvania now authorizes electric-powered trucks to weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

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

Following the feds

The House Transportation Committee voted 23-2 to advance an amended bill to put into statute the federal rule.

The bill, SB845, would increase the maximum gross vehicle weight for commercial vehicles powered by electric battery power by 2,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds.

Pennsylvania law already authorizes the same weight allowance for trucks powered by natural gas.

‘Necessary’ change

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

Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland, previously told state legislators in a memo about his bill that “heavy duty electric tractor-trailers that run at full weight capacity weigh closer to 82,000 pounds simply due to the weight of the necessary equipment needed to make the engine and system work.”

Natural Gas Vehicles for America has reported that more than half of all states have adopted the gross vehicle weight rating provision.

More road money

One change made to the bill in committee is intended to ensure that all vehicle owners pay for the roads they use, including alternative-fuel vehicles and hybrids.

A provision added to the bill would require the state to collect additional revenue from owners of electric vehicles and vehicles that use a combination of fuel and electric power, or hybrids.

Affected vehicle owners would pay an additional fee for the registration and renewed registration of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Specifically, electric vehicle owners would pay $175 each year, and commercial electric vehicle owners would pay $250. Hybrid vehicle owners would pay $75 annually.

Revenue would be deposited into the state’s motor license fund for highway maintenance and construction purposes.

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, said on the House floor during discussion on the bill that he has a problem with the new language.

Rabb said that although he understands the need to have alternative-fuel vehicle owners pay more to use roads, he said the change is unfair because affected vehicle owners lack the same access to roadways as owners of fuel-powered vehicles due to a lack of charging stations around the state.

Next steps

The bill next moves to the House Appropriations Committee. If approved by the House, SB845 would head back to the Senate for consideration of changes before it can advance to the governor’s desk. LL

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