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Senate bill to allow heavier trucks on interstate

By Staff | Aug 13, 2010

By LARRY KERSHNER

For The Messenger

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of more than 160 shippers and allied associations dedicated to increasing federal weight limits on interstate highways announced last week that it approved a bill that would bring about that weight allowance.

The measure, Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, S. 3705, was introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. senators Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Like an identical companion legislation now pending in the House, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, or SETA, would permit individual state DOTs to raise interstate weight limits to 97,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles instead of five.

Without making the truck larger, the additional axle maintains safety specifications, including stopping capability and current weight per tire.

SETA would safely make the shipment of heavier cargo more efficient, as many trucks meet the current 80,000-pound federal weight limit with significant space in their rigs, a CTP statement said.

S 3705, shippers said, would safely utilize extra cargo space and reduce truck loads, fuel, emissions and vehicle miles traveled for each ton of freight shipped.

The bill also gives states authority to self-determine if the heavier loads would be allowed within their borders.

Doubling exports

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition in Iowa, told Farm News in a July interview, that a measure such as SETA would be essential in meeting the White house’s call for doubling U.S. exports in the future.

“We need to export more,”?Steenhoek said, “but that means removing barriers.

“Agriculture has increasing demands for its products, but we have a transporation system that is byzantine. It’s not keeping up with demand and production increases.”

No extra wear on roads

Steenhoek said that the new weights would not hurt interstate road surfaces.

“The road cares more about the touchpoints of the truck,” Steenhoek said, “and not the overall weight.”

Under existing law an 80,000 pound load, rolling over 18 wheels, would spread 4,444.4 pounds per wheel. The new law, allowing 97,000 pounds over 22 wheels, would spread the weigh to 4,409.1 pounds per wheel.

“That’s what the road is actually feeling,” Steenhoek added.

“It’s wonderful that the country wants to double exports,”?Steenhoek said. “But we can’t just snap our fingers to mnake it happen. We have to make decisions to make it come to pass.”

The Iowa Legislature approved allowing the heavier weight on interstate roadways, with a sixth axle, for hauling livestock, stonbe and grain.

More freight hauled

“With freight increases in the forecast, S 3705 would make roads safer, greener and more efficient – both now and in the future,” said CTP Executive Director John Runyan. “The American Trucking Association estimates that the trucking industry will haul 30 percent more tonnage in 2021 than it does today.

“If current weight restrictions remain the same, that means our economy will require 18 percent more trucks on the road driving 27 percent more miles than they do now. SETA would ease the burden on our roads by adjusting weight limits to safely reduce the number of trucks required to ship a given amount of goods.”

The extra weight allowance, Runyam continued, would be a boon for agricultural businesses to get more product to market outlets.

“The truck weight reform outlined in SETA is not a new concept,” Runyan added. “The UK raised its gross vehicle weight limit to 97,000 pounds for six-axle vehicles in 2001 and has experienced exactly what we need in the U.S.

“More freight has been shipped, yet vehicle miles traveled have leveled off and fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35 percent.

Additionally, the Wisconsin DOT found that a law like the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act would have prevented 90 truck-related accidents on Wisconsin roads during 2006.”

Runyan said SETA supporters hope to see the bill in effect for 2011.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or by e-mail at kersh@farm-news.com.

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