Pennsylvania House panel approves electric-powered trucks rule

May 18, 2021

Keith Goble

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Multiple bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly would adopt a federal weight exemption for electric-powered trucks. The rule is already in place in the majority of states.

Currently, the state of Pennsylvania 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 raise the weight on interstates within their borders.

Following the feds 

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill to put into statute the federal rule on electric battery-powered trucks. Specifically, HB722 would increase the maximum gross vehicle weight for commercial vehicles powered by electric battery power by 2,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds.

A 2017 Pennsylvania law authorizes the weight allowance for trucks powered by natural gas.

During the 2020 regular session, state House and Senate lawmakers approved different versions of the bill. Time ran out on the session before legislators were able to work out their differences in the bill.

Latest version cleaned up

The 2020 version was ultimately derailed because of a House change made to the bill intended to ensure that more vehicle owners pay for the roads they use.

The provision authorized the state to collect an additional fee for the registration and renewed registration of electric vehicles and vehicles that use a combination of fuel and electric power, or hybrids. Commercial vehicle owners were excluded.

The 2021 legislation does not include that provision.

‘Necessary’ change

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

Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland, wrote in a memo to legislators about his bill that “electric battery-powered vehicles, similar to those powered by natural gas, weigh more due to heavier equipment required to power the truck.”

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

HB722 awaits further consideration in the House. The Senate version, SB153, is in the Senate Transportation Committee. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania.

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.