BISMARCK — Clearance for the extra-long trucks known as "road trains" on North Dakota highways moved a step forward with a resolution signed by the secretary of state this week, some of the first legislation to advance out of the Capitol this session.

Lawmakers who have pushed for road trains, which aren't legal in most parts of the world, have pointed to North Dakota's flat terrain and sparse population as optimal for testing out the platoons of semi-truck trailers, which they say would make it more efficient and environmentally friendly to ship heavy freight.

House Concurrent Resolution 3001, signed by Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Tuesday, March 9, calls on members of Congress to temporarily amend the current 110 foot and 190,000 pound limits on truck sizes in North Dakota and surrounding states.

Though critics of the program have expressed fears that heavier and longer trucks would damage North Dakota roads and endanger drivers, lawmakers ultimately backed the resolution.

Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, has been the chief advocate for road trains in North Dakota and said he has been working on getting them authorized for eight years.

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“It’s exciting, but I gotta tell you, it’s been so long since I started talking about this, it’s getting tiring, too,” he said.

North Dakota would be a road train pioneer if it pursues a pilot program, but Luick has pointed to the Australian Outback, where such truck platoons are commonly used, as a model for how they could work here. And though Australian road trains can easily stretch 175 feet and weigh in at 300,000 pounds, Luick has stressed that his vision for a pilot program in North Dakota is much more limited in size and scope.

Luick said U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told him several years ago that he would back road train legislation at the federal level if Luick could get it to Congress.

In a statement, Hoeven’s office said the senior North Dakota senator intends to review the road train resolution and noted his support for 2018 legislation to up the interstate weight limits for trucks in North Dakota to bring the state into alignment with its neighbors in Montana, South Dakota and Manitoba.

The road train resolution signed by Jaeger this week is one of two road train proposals considered by North Dakota lawmakers this session. The second, a bill introduced by Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot, would let the governor waive the weight and length requirements for semis on some North Dakota roads to allow for a state-specific pilot program.

That bill is still under consideration in the House.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated which state official signed House Concurrent Resolution 3001. The resolution was signed by the secretary of state.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.