A pilot program that has allowed 100,000-lb., six-axle trucks on Maine Interstates for the past year will come to an end at the end of next Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. The program, which the Maine Dept. of Transportation and the Maine Motor Transport Assn. (MMTA) both claim has been a success, was not included in a “Continuing Resolution” (CR) bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night. This CR funds programs through Sept. 30, 2011.

“I am so disappointed that the House has passed a Continuing Resolution that does not include either a permanent fix or an extension of the current pilot program,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in a press release. She had authored the legislation that established the pilot program.

”Given the time constraints and voting rules in the Senate, it is unlikely that we can restore the truck weights language that the House took out, thus jeopardizing the fate of what has been a successful pilot project,” pointed out Collins.

“Permanently allowing the heaviest trucks to use federal Interstate highways in Maine has always been one of my top priorities,” Collins said. “The pilot project, that I authored, has clearly provided economic, energy, and environmental benefits and has made our secondary roads and many downtowns safer. That is why the President agreed to my request to include a provision to make the pilot project permanent in his proposed CR.”

The pilot program started up last December. The provision to make the program permanent was included in the CR proposal from President Obama, but was not included in the final House bill.

The Maine Congressional delegation “got the White House to agree to make it permanent,” Bryan Parke, president & CEO of MMTA, told Fleet Owner. “It’s been a top priority for Maine’s delegation for decades.

“To say we’re disappointed is an understatement,” Parke said. “It’s not guaranteed the pilot will expire… we’re hoping our delegation can pull a rabbit out of the hat.”

The program’s end will force heavier trucks back onto secondary roads, Parke said. Maine already has a state regulation that allows 100,000-lb. trucks on its state roadways. The pilot program helped take many of those trucks off those roads and place them onto the Interstate system.

“It’s a hardship in that is means [companies] have to reroute their drivers onto secondary roads,” Parke noted. “It increases interactions with other vehicles and pedestrians unnecessarily.”

A representative from a paper mill in Maine, Parke said, told him that the impact of the program was equivalent to moving the mill 291 mi. closer to the end customer, saving fuel and dramatically improving its vehicles’ productivity.

Parts of Maine, specifically the Maine Turnpike and the southern portion of I-95 where it enters New Hampshire, will continue to include 100,000-lb. trucks as those sections are grandfathered.

Collins’ office released the results of a preliminary study conducted by the Maine Dept. of Transportation that said the program saved both money and time while improving safety.

“For example, on a trip from Hampden to Houlton, a truck travelling on Interstate 95 saves 50 minutes over Route 2 and avoids more than 270 intersections and nine school crossings. The driver also saves approximately $30 on fuel by traveling on the Interstate,” the report stated.