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Two 20-foot containers could be pulled in tandem under Louisiana proposal

Senate unanimously backs legislation; law limits movement to drayage and on preapproved routes

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Permitting drayage trucks to pull a tandem of 20-foot containers is at the heart of legislation that was passed unanimously Wednesday by the Louisiana state Senate.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith and now heads to the state’s Assembly.

Smith told FreightWaves that his interest in sponsoring the legislation came out of the work done by Ronnie Mains, the president of CRC Global Solutions, whom Smith described as a constituent. 

Mains, according to Smith, has invented a system in which a pair of chassis are pulled by a tractor, each carrying a 20-foot container. 

Mains could not be reached for comment. 

The focus on the drayage sector is in the opening sentence of the legislation, where the proposed law is directed at “a combination of vehicles or tandem loads hauling containers to and from port facilities.” 

“My opinion is that it helps reduce the burden on the roadways and congestion by having one tractor producing emissions instead of two tractors,” Smith said. “My constituent (Mains) said overnight, it would solve some problems. Realistically, it would not do it that quickly but it would be faster than what we’re looking at now.”

The bill sets up several new guidelines. Tandem trailers along with their tractors could not exceed 135,000 pounds, and cannot exceed 40,000 pounds per tandem axle spread. The combination also can’t be more than 75 feet in length, knocking out the possibility of the law applying to a pairing of a 40-foot container with a 20-foot container.   

A description of Mains’ creation is cited in the legislation. The tandem trailer must be “equipped with a dual-axle dolly and dolly safety system, with tilt sensors attached to the dolly that provide feedback on tilt information to the driver of the vehicle to ensure safe operations.”

The state’s Department of Transportation has expressed some skepticism toward the proposal, though not outright opposition. 

In response to questions sent via email to the department, Louisiana DOT spokesman Rodney Mallett said the concerns the department has are about axle loads and gross weight. 

“More specifically, it sets a precedent for divisible loads being allowed this heavy,” he said. 

Mallett said there already are special permits issued by the state for extra heavy loads. The containerized cargo Class 1 permit allows a maximum gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds and a tandem axle weight of 40,000 pounds. The Class 2 permit raises that to 95,000 pounds and a tandem axle weight of 40,000 pounds, and a tridem axle weight – for an axle with three wheels – of 60,000 pounds. 

Requiring a third axle is one of the suggestions the state has for the legislation, Mallett said. 

A tandem trailer operating under the new law, if approved, would need to operate under a route approved by the department. Using the tandem trailers on interstate highways would not be permitted but they could move on other federal roads. 

“We propose strengthening the language to make it abundantly clear that the permits are route specific,” Mallett said. “The reason for that is that bridges along the route need to be reviewed to ensure they can support a 135,000 pound load.”

He also said that while the legislation would ease restrictions to drayage movements, that didn’t necessarily mean the miles to be traveled are short. “Under the proposed legislation, the distances are not necessarily short, but rather could be several hundred miles long,” he said. 

Renee Amar, the executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, told FreightWaves that her organization has not weighed in on the legislation.

“Because our membership is split on weight and permit issues, we typically take no position,” she said.

Amar said that based on the testimony before a Senate committee, she believes that permitting the hauling of tandem chassis in Louisiana would mark the first time that has been permitted anywhere in the country. 

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.