Senator Susan Collins says she wants to see a permanent law allowing heavier trucks to drive on the interstate in Maine. At a news conference in Bangor today, Collins said the issue is so important, it’ll be the first bill she proposes when Congress gets back to work next week. As commercial trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds return to some city streets and rural roads, Collins is pushing to get them back on the highway. A one-year pilot project letting heavier trucks stay on I-95 expired last month. “Allowing the heavy trucks to use the highway, it saves fuel, it improves safety, it makes our businesses more competitive and it has environmental benefits. “Now, trucks traveling north have to get off the highway in Augusta and ride on secondary roads. In Bangor, that sends them right past the police station, businesses and homes. Chief Ron Gastia says, “Those trucks do not stop quickly. No matter how good those truck operators are, those loads can shift and as they travel rural roads and city streets, they make these corners and their loads sometimes shift. And those loads pose a significant safety issue to pedestrians and other drivers.”Collins says it’s also a matter of saving money for businesses, like Lincoln Paper and Tissue. President and CEO Keith Van Scotter says, “We pay about $8 million a year in freight. Now a big portion of that is fuel, so you say we can save maybe 20-30 percent on fuel costs. That represents a savings well in excess of half a million dollars a year.”National Highway safety groups and railroads are opposed to raising weight limits to 100,000 pounds.But Collins says it’s her top priority to bring Maine in line with other states. “They’re able to do so in New Hampshire, they’re able to do so in Massachusetts, parts of New York State and in the Canadian provinces, so our employers are put at a competitive disadvantage. That just does not make sense in terms of safety, energy and competitiveness.”Collins plans to sponsor the bill with Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who’s also pushing to raise the truck weight limit there.