Trucking news: ATA makes its case for longer, heavier trucks

Earlier this month, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) cited myriad ways in which U.S. trucks would be more fuel efficient and green if they were more productive like trucks in Europe, Canada, and Australia.

This, said the ATA, was a major takeaway from the preliminary results of a multi-nation study. And the ATA noted that these findings corroborate results gleaned from the 2008 American Transportation Research Institute’s higher productivity model. The results cited how many countries—in anticipation of increasing freight volumes—are focused on programs that increase truck size and weight and resulted in significant productivity, environmental, and safety improvements.

Truck size and weight issues have received a considerable amount of attention in recent months in the form of two pieces of legislation:

-the “Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act” (H.R. 1618)—also known as SHIPA—would expand the current 80,000 pound truck weight limit of commercial weight vehicles on the 161,000 mile National Highway System and also prohibit states from end-running the federal law and allowing longer and heavier trucks; and

-the “Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009” (H.R. 1799), which would increase truck weight limits to 97,000 pounds from the current 80,000 pound weight limit and allow states to authorize the operation of heavier trucks.

The ATA referenced a recent conference hosted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, where global trucking experts opined the U.S. is behind in various truck productivity and sustainability categories, adding that current U.S. truck size and weight regulations are preventing trucks from utilizing the full potential of domestic infrastructure. The ATA also said that “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.”

ATA Vice President of Public Affairs Clayton Boyce said in an interview that opponents of longer and heavier trucks are wrong on the assumption that bigger trucks are less safe and not as environmentally sustainable as smaller ones.

“More productive trucks in general have been a part of our policy since October 2007,” said Boyce. “Larger sizes are safer and more environmentally advantageous. We would like to see an increase in the maximum weight to 97,000 pounds and a lifting of the moratorium on the expansion of LCV (longer combination vehicles) allowances and the harmonization of LCV regulations in the West [where there are some disparities in truck sizes from state to state].”

The ATA said it has proposed a program to: allow 6-axle vehicles to carry 97,000 pounds in states that permit them; allow states to permit 33-foot trailer combinations; and allow a 10 percent increase in auto hauler weight’s to account for heavier vehicles.

“Existing restrictions on truck size and weight are unreasonably low and harm the U.S.,”said Bill Graves, ATA President and CEO, in a statement. “We must raise our standards to maximize the productivity of our transportation system if we’re to remain competitive in global markets.”

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