Making the Case for Increasing Truck Weights and Improving Highway Safety

Apr 19, 2013

  By Julie Landry
  Manager, Government Affairs

  For more than 25 years, the federal vehicle weight limit has been
  set at 80,000 pounds—a regulation that now challenges our
  safety, economy, environment and infrastructure. Shippers in the
  pulp and paper industry often meet this limit with significant space
  in their trailers, and are forced to use more truckloads, miles and
  fuel than necessary.

This inefficiency problem is hindering economic recovery and straining our infrastructure. Shipping costs are on the rise, and available truck capacity has dropped dramatically. At the same time, freight hauled by trucks in the U.S. is expected to double by 2035.

If the U.S. is to emerge from the economic downturn and be competitive in the global marketplace, we need to boost truck productivity. Congress should enact H.R. 612, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) to make truck transportation safer and more sustainable.

  • SETA gives states the option to safely raise interstate weight limits, without making trucks any larger.
  • States would be free to set interstate weight limits of up to 97,000 pounds—but only for vehicles equipped with an additional (sixth) axle.
  • The required sixth axle would maintain braking capacity and handling characteristics—without changing the size of the truck.
  • It would also minimize the weight-per-tire to minimize pavement wear.
  • SETA pays for itself. While the additional axle maintains vehicle safety performance and reduces pavement wear, SETA requires operators of heavier trucks to pay a slightly higher user fee—a continuation of the fee already in place. Those fees would be redirected to states and used to fund bridge maintenance.

Our national highway system cannot accommodate the coming surge in increased freight without also making changes to reduce the number of trucks hauling that freight. There must be changes to our national trucking policy to allow each truck to carry more freight safely and efficiently.