Capacity shortage driving demand for higher weight limits

A growing shortage of freight capacity across the transportation sector – along with an increasing need to boost economic productivity – is putting more support behind legislative efforts to increase weight limits for U.S. commercial trucks

A growing shortage of freight capacity across the transportation sector – along with an increasing need to boost economic productivity – is putting more support behind legislative efforts to increase weight limits for U.S. commercial trucks.

Last week, for example, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R- OH) and Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) along with seven other Congressional members wrote an open letter to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture in support of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, H.R. 1799, which would boost the current 80,000-lb federal weight limit on commercial trucks to 97,000 lbs.

“If a cattle rancher, sugar producer, or corn farmer can ship their goods utilizing 15 trucks each day instead of 20, the shipping savings, environmental benefits and safety impacts are clearly evident,” they said in the letter.

“At some point, almost all agriculture travels by truck. Unfortunately, with the current federal weight limit … many trucks are forced to leave the loading dock half-full,” Schmidt and Kagen stressed. “They all want ways to increase their ability to compete in the world market while reducing carbon emissions. We believe H.R. 1799 will go a long way in helping the agricultural community do just that.”

Originally introduced last year in the House of Representatives by Reps. Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH), H.R. 1799 would allow heavier – not larger– trucks on interstates by giving each state the option to increase its interstate vehicle weight limit to 97,000 lbs for trucks equipped with a sixth axle for safety.

Without changing truck size, the additional axle would maintain current braking capacity and weight-per-tire distribution and minimizes pavement wear, according to the legislation. And a user fee imposed within the bill would aim to fund bridge repairs caused by these heavier weights.

“The agricultural sector needs as much efficiency as possible as quickly as possible because we’re seeing a l t of constraints now on transportation as the economy begins to recover,” John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), a shipper/carrier group that supports H.R. 1799, told FleetOwner.

“A lot of ocean carriers, truckers, and railroads, because of the depth of this recession, are now skittish about bringing new capacity on line as the global economy begins to recover,” he added.

“And if the recovery does continue on course, it will be slow and thus it will be more costly to add new capacity,” Runyan noted. “That’s why we’re getting a lot of support for heavier [truck] weight rules from many different industrial sectors, particularly those that ship heavier products. We hope those concerns will help move the needle on this issue.”

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