Ever since President Eisenhower signed the bill creating the Interstate highway system in 1956, the federal government has been regulating truck size and weight. From the beginning, it has been a matter of compromise, of balancing the need for safety with the desire to maximize productivity while still protecting roads and bridges from undue wear and tear. Nearly 50 years later that balancing act continues, but new pressures are starting to tip the scales in favor of heavier trucks, like it or not.
“The reality of commerce flow in this country is that we have more people wanting more products and somehow those products have to travel that last mile. Those are just facts,” says John Ficker, president of The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL). “Several studies indicate that freight volumes could double by 2020. Even if freight only increases by 50%, it poses a significant challenge. How are we going to deal with that when traffic congestion in major population centers is already gridlocked?
“It is not reasonable to assume we can build our way out of this situation. It is just not going to happen. So what will we do?” he asks. “One solution is to permit existing trucks to haul more weight. NITL supports an increase in the weight carrying capacity of trucks up to 97,000 lb. GVW. Studies indicate that heavier trucks with the proper axle configurations would not cause more damage to highways.
“This discussion is not about trucking versus the general public, but rather about insuring that our economy can continue to grow,” Ficker observes. “Freight is the circulatory system of our economy and we all know what happens if an artery gets blocked.”