The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that by 2020 the amount of freight moved throughout the country will increase 87 percent from 2000 levels. Given the current transportation challenges many companies face, however, it is difficult to see that increase coming without significant economic burdens. Companies small and large have been hurt by increased diesel costs, higher insurance premiums, and the cost of stricter emissions standards. Driver hours-of-service regulations and growing highway congestion will create even greater problems for many industries.
Increasing Highway Efficiency, Reducing Impact
Truck weight limits have been frozen at 80,000 pounds on the National Highway System for 20 years. Canadian, European and Mexican competitors all having higher weight limits that reduce their cost of delivery. Technology improvements and stronger roads and bridges make it safe for each truck to carry more freight. The time is now for Congress to revisit truck weight policy.
AF&PA is working with the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP) and the Agriculture and Forestry Transportation Reform Coalition (AgHaul) to call for increases to truck weight limits. AF&PA favors increasing weight limits for trucks on interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds with the addition of a sixth axle because:
There is a shortage of transportation capacity for the forest products industry. Moving raw materials to mills, as well as finished products to customers, is increasingly difficult and costly.
- 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.
- Additionally, 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, reduce road “wear and tear” and improve global competitiveness.
The Time for Change is Now
Our national highway system cannot accommodate the coming surge in increased freight without also making changes to reduce the number of trucks hauling that freight. There must be changes to our national trucking policy to allow each truck to carry more freight safely and efficiently.
AF&PA supports making critical improvements to America’s transportation efficiency by enacting legislation as part of the upcoming highway reauthorization bill, or other related legislation, to increase the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) on federal Interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds with an additional axle.
On July 6, 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.