US size, weight limits impede truck productivity, study finds

July 16, 2009
US trucks would be more fuel-efficient and emit fewer greenhouse gases if they were as productive as trucks in Europe, Canada, and Australia, according to preliminary results of a multi-nation study

US trucks would be more fuel-efficient and emit fewer greenhouse gases if they were as productive as trucks in Europe, Canada, and Australia, according to preliminary results of a multi-nation study.

These findings reaffirm results from 2008 using the American Transportation Research Institute’s higher-productivity vehicle model. As nations prepare for increasing freight volumes, many have already instituted programs that increase truck size and weight and have seen great productivity and environmental gains, with continuing improvements in safety.

At a recent conference hosted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, truck industry experts from across the globe found that the United States is lagging in several truck productivity and sustainability categories when compared with international counterparts. Current US truck size and weight regulations serve as a limiting factor, preventing trucks from using the full potential of the nation’s infrastructure. Increasing truck size and weight standards to align more closely with international standards would improve truck productivity and the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon output.

“Existing restrictions on truck size and weight are unreasonably low and harm the United States,” said Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). “We must raise our standards to maximize the productivity of our transportation system if we’re to remain competitive in global markets.”

ATA supports allowing states to authorize more productive vehicles to operate on the nation’s highways, consistent with sound engineering standards, improved safety, and cost responsibility. To address the potential for greater productivity, ATA has proposed a program to allow six-axle vehicles to carry 97,000 pounds in states that agree to permit them; allow states to permit 33-foot trailer combinations; harmonize use of longer combination vehicles in western states and expand their use where appropriate; and allow a 10% increase in auto-hauler weights to account for heavier vehicles.

Operating more productive vehicles would allow companies to deliver goods while making fewer trips, resulting in less traffic congestion, cleaner air, less costly freight transportation, and safer highways.

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