A bill to increase the maximum allowable gross weight of fuel haulers from 80,000 pounds to 88,000 pounds to help alleviate congestion and port freighter backup was voted down in the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday in a 3-5 vote.
Senate Bill 1356, authored by Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), would have matched the new temporary weight amounts for freight trucks that Governor Gavin Newsom approved of in November 2021 in Executive Order N-19-21 for highway routes between ports and distribution centers. Specifically, SB 1356 would increase increase the maximum gross weight for a vehicle or combination of vehicles transporting a load composed solely of a petroleum-based fuel from 80,000 pounds to 88,000 pounds.
Senator Grove wrote the bill due to increased cargo volume at Californian ports in recent years, increased freight road traffic causing congestion, the need for more gasoline and other oil-based fuels across the state, and massive port backlogs last year that caused backups of over 100 ships during the worst days and caused national concern over freight supply-chains. The Senator said that, with SB 1356 as law, emissions would go down, congestion would go down on roads, the backlog issue would see some relief, as well as multiple local needs being met, such as firefighters having enough fuel to battle wildfires from the air.
“This critical legislation would have taken the Governor’s temporary exemption and applied it permanently to all fuel trucks throughout the state,” said the Senator on Wednesday. “We need long-term solutions that will not only reduce emissions and help alleviate congestion on the road, but will also reduce the amount of drivers it will take to transport fuel. With California’s wildfire season right around the corner, SB 1356 also would have allowed fuel haulers to transport more fuel, which would aid firefighters as they are battling wildfires across our state.”
Despite support for the oil-based fuel load increase coming from Republicans and some Democrats, other Democrats had raised concerns ranging from not wanting to have a bill that supported gasoline powered cars over recent legislation pushing for zero emissions vehicles to safety concerns over what an additional 8,000 pounds of fuel might bring.
“Roughly, another 8,000 pounds of gas is about 1,300 gallons,” Mike Celebrezze, a logistics analyst for a freighting company, told the Globe on Wednesday. “Cars can have gas tanks varying from 12 to over 18 gallons or more, but let’s just say 15. That’s another 80-90 cars with full tanks right there. If the gas hall isn’t a crazy distance away, the extra pounds means that more fuel is getting to gas stations or airports or wherever at a better rate. Problem is that, well, there are problems with it, and that’s what did in that California bill. Some politicians there don’t want to give an inch to gas-powered cars, so even if they were saying that it wasn’t a reason, well, it was at least a factor.”
“There are plenty of reasons this was voted against, but they ignored the better efficiency this would bring.”
If passed, SB 1356 would have had fuel-haulers be an exception to the 80,000 pound freight limit in California, along with current exceptions such as log haulers and cotton module movers.