The U.S. needs responsible truck weight reform.

Without the Safe, Flexible and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act (H.R. 3488), we will sink deeper into a capacity crisis that is already threatening economic productivity. 

For more than 30 years, the federal vehicle weight limit has been set at 80,000 pounds—a restriction that now challenges our economy, environment and infrastructure. About a quarter of U.S. truck shipments meet this limit with significant space in their trailers, meaning that shippers use more truckloads, miles and fuel than necessary.

With nearly 70 percent of all U.S. freight tonnage moved by trucks and overall freight tonnage expected to grow nearly 25 percent over the next decade, we need solutions now to make trucking more productive.

Congress should enact the SAFE Trucking Act to modernize Interstate weight limits for six-axle vehicles to safely improve productivity and sustainability.

States need the flexibility to make Interstate highways more productive, and trucks equipped with an additional axle are proven to safely carry more freight.
  • The SAFE Trucking Act would allow states the freedom to set higher weight limits on their Interstate highways, but only for vehicles equipped with an additional (sixth) axle.

  • The required sixth axle maintains handling characteristics while improving braking capability and the current distribution of weight—all without changing the size of the truck.1

 

  • The U.S. DOT has indicated that the SAFE Trucking Act configuration is “federal bridge formula compliant”—meaning that it meets weight distribution requirements for vehicles traveling on Interstate Highway System bridges.2

  • Rail is often the first shipment choice for U.S. manufacturers, but most freight must, at some point, be shipped by truck. The U.S. DOT has found that rail freight diversion as a result of the SAFE Trucking Act would be minimal.3

SAFER ROADS

Since the U.K. similarly raised its weight limit for six-axle vehicles in 2001, productitivity has increased while fatal truck-related accidents have declined by 35 percent. The U.S. could experience the same benefits.4

IMPROVED INFRASTRUCTURE

By lowering axle weight limits, the SAFE Trucking Act would reduce pavement costs by as much as 4.2 percent, according to the U.S. DOT.5

STRONGER ECONOMY

The SAFE Trucking Act will allow American producers to reduce the number of shipments needed to deliver a fixed amount of goods—making them more productive and competitive.

CLEANER ENVIRONMENT

The U.S. DOT estimates that the SAFE Trucking Act would result in a decline in fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions and emissions of nitrogen oxide.5

SAFER ROADS

BY ALLOWING MANUFACTURERS TO CONSOLIDATE FREIGHT ON FEWER TRUCKS, THE SAFE TRUCKING ACT WILL IMPROVE OVERALL TRUCKING EFFICIENCY AND HELP MAKE ROADS SAFER.
  • Truck traffic has grown with the needs of the U.S. population—increasing 11 times faster than road capacity.6
  • A significant factor in the number of vehicle/tractor-trailer accidents is vehicle miles traveled. Reducing the number of trucks needed to deliver a specific amount of freight would help reduce vehicle miles traveled and therefore help make roads safer.7
  • Since the United Kingdom similarly raised its gross vehicle weight limit for six-axle vehicles in 2001, fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35 percent. More freight has been shipped, but the vehicle miles traveled to deliver a ton of freight has declined.4
  • A 2009 Wisconsin DOT study found that if a law like the SAFE Trucking Act had been in place in 2006, it would have reduced truck-related accidents in the state. Analysis of the study by the American Trucking Associations projects that truck weight reform would have prevented a total of 90 accidents in Wisconsin in 2006.8
TRUCKS EQUIPPED WITH SIX AXLES, RATHER THAN THE TYPICAL FIVE, HAVE BEEN PROVEN TO SAFELY CARRY MORE FREIGHT.
  • The U.S. DOT found that the 91,000-pound six-axle configuration (the SAFE Trucking Act configuration) features comparable handling characteristics and improved braking ability, stopping one foot faster than the 80,000-pound five-axle truck currently used throughout the nation.1
THE SAFE TRUCKING ACT WILL ALLOW HEAVIER TRUCKS ONTO INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS—THE SAFEST PLACE FOR HEAVIER TRAFFIC.
  • Within the U.S., more than 90 percent of states allow heavier trucks to access some or all secondary roads, but federal regulations keep them off the interstate—the safest place for truck shipments. In addition, many of the heavier trucks that are already permitted on state roads operate on five axles—instead of the safer six axles.9
  • In 2011, Congress allowed Maine to grant Interstate access to heavier, six-axle trucks. Since then, highway fatalities in the state have reached a 70-year low and fatalities involving commercial trucks have been reduced from 23 in 2009 to 10 in 2014.10

IMPROVED INFRASTRUCTURE

THE SAFE TRUCKING ACT IS A SAFE, COST-EFFECTIVE WAY TO BOOST TRUCKING SUSTAINABILITY WHILE REDUCING ROAD WEAR AND MINIMIZING BRIDGE IMPACT.

  • By lowering axle weight limits, the SAFE Trucking Act configuration reduces pavement costs by as much as 4.2 percent.5

  • In addition to stating that the 91,000-pound six-axle configuration (the SAFE Trucking Act configuration) is bridge formula compliant, the U.S. DOT found that one-time bridge rehabilitation costs for Interstate System bridges are the same as with today’s five-axle 80,000-pound configuration.11
  • Fewer trucks would satisfy America’s shipping needs—putting less overall weight on any given stretch of highway—while a continuation of the existing weight-based user fee would fund bridge maintenance.

STRONGER ECONOMY

THE SAFE TRUCKING ACT WILL HELP U.S. MANUFACTURERS CONFRONT THE CAPACITY CRUNCH WHILE STIMULATING INVESTMENT AND ECONOMIC GROWTH.
  • Demand for both truck and rail shipment is growing, and capacity constraints are extraordinarily tight. Demand for truck shipment is far outpacing truck availability. The SAFE Trucking Act would help address this capacity crisis.12

  • By allowing companies to consolidate goods and reduce the number of weekly shipments, the U.S. DOT estimates the impact of implementing the SAFE Trucking Act configuration would reduce logistics costs by 1.4 percent annually, yielding “significant logistics savings” of approximately $5.6 billion.13
  • U.S. gross vehicle weight limits are among the lowest of all industrialized nations. Canada, Mexico and most European nations already employ higher vehicle weight limits—putting U.S. shippers at a competitive disadvantage.14

CLEANER ENVIRONMENT

THE SAFE TRUCKING ACT WILL SAVE FUEL AND REDUCE GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS.

  • Six-axle trucks loaded to 91,000 pounds allow shippers to move a given amount of product with a median reduction in fuel consumption of 13 percent, relative to five-axle trucks carrying 80,000 pounds.15
 
  • The U.S. DOT estimates implementation of the 91,000-pound six-axle configuration (the SAFE Trucking Act configuration) would result in a decline in fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions and emissions of nitrogen oxide.5
  • The San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, responsible for air quality management in California’s largest agricultural production region, supports increasing the federal vehicle weight limit for its positive environmental and economic impact.

1 U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study Technical Reports, Vol. II, “Highway Safety and Truck Crash Comparative Analysis,” June 2015, pp. 60-65.

2 U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study Technical Reports, Vol. I, “Technical Summary Report,” June 2015, p. 20; and U.S. DOT Deputy Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau Letter to Congressman Reid J. Ribble, April 24, 2015.

3 U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study Technical Reports, Vol. I, “Technical Summary Report,” June 2015, p. 39.

4 Transportation Statistics Bulletin: Road and Freight  Statistics 2007, UK Department for Transport, 2008.

5 U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study Technical Reports, Vol. I, “Technical Summary Report,” June 2015, pp. ES-8, ES-11.

6 Highway Statistics 2013, Federal Highway Administration; Highway Statistics 1982, Federal Highway Administration.

7 Carson, Directory of Significant Truck Size and Weight Research, NCHRP 20-07 Task 303, 2011, p. 49; Wisconsin Truck Size and Weight Study, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 2009, p. ES-13.

8 Wisconsin Truck Size and Weight Study, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 2009, p. 8-3.

9 “Gross Vehicle Weight by State for 5- and 6-Axle Semi-Trailers,” American Trucking Associations.

10 “Road Deaths at 70-Year Low in Maine,” Bangor Daily News, Jan. 12, 2015.

11 U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study Technical Reports, Vol. II, “Bridge Structure Comparative Analysis,” June 2015, pp. 62-63.

12 ATA U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2025, American Trucking Associations, 2014.

13 U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study Technical Reports, Vol. I, “Technical Summary Report,” June 2015,  pp. ES-11, 39.

14 International Vehicle Performance Benchmarking Study, Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), 2008.

15 Analysis of the Potential Benefits of Larger Trucks for U.S. Businesses Operating Private Fleets; University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute; 2009, p. 13.