A bill continuing to move through the Pennsylvania General Assembly would add the Pennsylvania to the list of states adopting federal weight exemption for electric-powered trucks. A separate provision would tap certain alternative fuel vehicle owners for more money.
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 act to raise the weight on interstates within their borders.
Catching up with the feds
The Senate voted 132-70 to advance an amended bill to put into statute the federal rule on electric battery-powered trucks. Specifically, 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 weight allowance for trucks powered by natural gas.
Change described as ‘necessary’
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 wrote in a memo to legislators 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.
One House change made to the bill is intended to ensure that more vehicle owners pay for the roads they use.
The provision would authorize the state to collect additional revenue from owners of electric vehicles and vehicles that use a combination of fuel and electric power, or hybrids. Commercial vehicle owners are excluded.
Affected personal 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.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports there are about 10,875 electric, plug-in vehicles and 35,406 hybrid electric vehicles registered in the state.
A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates that $5.2 million in new revenue would be raised by 2022. The revenue estimate is expected to grow to $8.7 million annually by 2026.
Revenue would be deposited into the state’s motor license fund for highway maintenance and construction purposes.
Pros and cons
Supporters say the fees on owners of alternative-fuel vehicles is about “fairness.” They point out that traditional fuel-powered vehicle owners are paying taxes for road construction and repairs while other vehicle owners are not.
Opponents say that owners of electric vehicles should not be burdened to pay more because they are helping to fight climate change and limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
Next steps for the electric-powered trucks legislation
The electric-powered trucks bill now heads back to the Senate for consideration of changes. If approved there, SB845 would be cleared to move to the governor’s desk.
If the Senate refuses to endorse the House changes, a conference committee made up of select lawmakers from both chambers could meet to hash out their differences before the bill could head to the governor. LL