Senate bill would raise truck weight ceiling
Three senators on Thursday proposed legislation that would allow state transportation departments to raise interstate highway weight limits within their states to 97,000 pounds for trucks with six axles instead of five.
Current rules limit trucks to 80,000 gross pounds. Twenty-one states have grandfathered exemptions for the 97,000-pound limit.
The trucking industry and many shippers argue larger trucks would increase efficiency, and reduce fuel consumption and trucks on the road by enabling trucks to carry more cargo at one time.
The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, S. 3705, was sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, with backing from Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Susan Collins, R-Maine
'This bipartisan legislation gives states the option to increase interstate truck weight limits in a safe manner so that we can get more goods from the farm or factory to consumers in fewer trips and fewer vehicle miles,' Crapo said in a statement. 'Many trucks now hit the federal weight limit with space left in their trailers. The U.S. DOT estimates that the use of six-axle trucks could save as much as $14.5 billion in shipping costs annually. SETA will also make U.S. goods more competitive in the global marketplace, as Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries already have higher weight limits.'
The sixth axle is designed to maintain braking capacity and reduce pavement wear by more evenly distributing the truck's weight.
'The American Trucking Associations 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. The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act 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,' said John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, in a statement.
He pointed to the United Kingdom, where vehicle miles traveled have leveled off and truck-related fatalities have declined 35 percent since the rules were changed in 2001, as a successful example of higher weight limits.
The coalition claims more than 160 members, most of them shippers or trade associations for manufacturers and producers.
Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, introduced an identical bill, H.R. 1799, in the House early last year. It has 54 co-sponsors. ' Eric Kulisch