Today, there is a shortage of transportation capacity for the forest products industry that is putting manufacturing jobs at risk. Moving fiber and raw materials to mills, as well as finished products to customers, is increasingly difficult and costly. AF&PA believes Congress should make critical improvements in truck weight and freight rail policy to alleviate the cost, service and capacity challenges of our industry.
Improving Highway Efficiency
Truck weight limits have been frozen at 80,000 pounds on the National Highway System for over 20 years. With foreign competitors enjoying higher weight limits, and technology improvements and stronger roads and bridges making it safer for trucks to carry more freight, the time is right to revisit truck weight policy.
AF&PA supports making critical improvements to America’s transportation efficiency by enacting H.R. 612, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013 to increase the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight on federal Interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds with an additional axle. AF&PA is working with the Coalition for Transportation Productivity and the Agriculture and Forestry Transportation Reform Coalition, to call for a truck weight limit increase.
An increase in the maximum allowable weight of six-axle semi-trailers is an effective and safe way to increase truck productivity and America's freight capacity. Increasing truck weights will reduce congestion, decrease emissions, reduce use of and dependence on fossil fuels, improve highway safety due to fewer vehicle miles traveled, increase efficiency, reduce road “wear and tear” and improve global competitiveness.
Last year, President Obama signed the long-awaited Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill, known as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act ("MAP-21). Its provisions run through September 30, 2014.
The bill calls for the federal Department of Transportation to study the safety and infrastructure impacts of high-productivity trucks (considering both length and weight reforms). It is important that the results of this study be available to Congress before it needs to act on a successor to MAP-21 and that a lack of research not be raised as an impediment in the next reauthorization process.
Increasing Railway Efficiency
Rail customers are not receiving reliable rail service at reasonable rates. It is estimated that 30 percent of forest products facilities have access to only one rail carrier. The railroad industry has an obligation to serve its customers and the nation’s freight rail needs, but many see their monopoly status as an opportunity to charge excessive rates while providing poor service.
As a member of the Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE) group, AF&PA supports legislation to:
- Remove railroads' exemption from antitrust laws. Their current special antitrust exemption allows freight railroads to avoid competition and keep their rates artificially and unfairly high. These unjustifiably high rates are a hidden tax on consumers, inflating prices on everyday items like food, electricity, paper, and manufactured goods.
- Reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which is failing in its mission to ensure competition and protect rail customers from railroad monopoly power. Impediments to competition adversely affecting rail customers need to be removed.
AF&PA requests support from Congress for these reforms. Our industry also acknowledges the need for investment in rail infrastructure. However, any tax credit granted to the railroads through Congressional action needs to address domestic captive shipper concerns, including that infrastructure spending should be used on captive, not just competitive, rail lines.