For many years, the National Private Truck Council has steadfastly supported modification of federal truck size and weight restrictions in a manner that would improve shipper and carrier productivity without jeopardizing highway safety. We know from growing evidence in the private fleet community over the past ten years that larger trucks would mean greater productivity for the businesses operating them; however, until now there hasn't been a study that helps make the case for changes in the law based on an independent research analysis of a sample group of companies.
In 2008, NPTC decided to underwrite such a study because of converging events in the business, environmental and political arenas. With diesel fuel costs reaching record levels in the past year, ever-increasing highway congestion, new federal engine emissions standards, and the rapidly spreading “green” movement in the corporate world, we saw a critical need — and a window of opportunity — to demonstrate the possibilities offered by changes in the national truck size and weight limits.
NPTC commissioned the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to conduct this independent study, which “examines the current operational and economic performance of a sample of companies that operate private fleets and establishes a present-day baseline of transport productivity and efficiency,” quoting from the study's Executive Summary.
The principal findings of the study are as follows: Increases in weight and length would have a direct beneficial effect on the challenges facing American businesses; large numbers of companies can benefit from increased tractor-trailer weight and length; companies report significant potential benefits from tractor-trailer weight and length increases; and increasing the weight and length of vehicles also provides benefits for the environment and national fuel supply through reduced energy consumption.
While conclusions reached in this study must be qualified due to the small sample of companies, and caveats about generalized extrapolations need to be pointed out as well, the results nonetheless speak for themselves and, to our mind, are persuasive.
Again, from the Executive Summary: “If a 14,000-lb. additional cargo weight allowance [97,000 lb. GVW] and Interstate usage of twin 53-ft. trailer LCVs were permitted, and fuel consumption and emissions reduction benefits estimated for this study's subset of vehicle fleets were representative of the national Class 8 truck fleet [which is unknown], then the national annual diesel fuel reduction would be nearly 3 billion gal. and the amount of CO2 produced would be reduced by over 65.3 billion lbs. [32.6 million tons].”
NPTC believes that this study contributes credible and reliable data to the debate and helps support the case to finally increase U.S. federal truck size and weight at a level already reached by many leading industrial countries of the world.
See the full report of “Analysis of the Potential Benefits of Large Trucks for U.S. Businesses Operating Private Fleets” at NPTC's web site at www.nptc.org.
Gary Petty is president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council's web site is www.nptc.org. His column appears monthly in FLEET OWNER.