Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should the U.S. increase its interstate weight limits?

Q: What is the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612)?

Q: Aren't these bigger trucks?

Q: How will the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612) make roads safer?

Q: How will the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612) affect the environment?

Q: How will the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612) affect the economy?

Q: Wouldn't increasing the weight limit damage bridges and increase road wear?

Q: Why not conduct pilot programs in a few select states to prove the concept before it is implemented nationally?

Q: Would increasing the interstate weight limit will mean more trucks on the road?

Q: Would SETA put heavier trucks on roads and bridges that weren't built to handle the extra weight?

Q: Who opposes the interstate truck weight increase?

Q: Is increasing weights the solution to the increasing road congestion issue?

Q: Wouldn't allowing trucks to carry more freight reduce job availability for truck drivers?

Q: Wouldn't adding more capacity to trucks shift business from the railroads?

Q: Do trucks pay their fair share for roads?

Q: Why is 97,000 pounds the correct weight limit?

Q: Who is advocating the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612)?


Q: Why should the U.S. increase its interstate weight limits?
A: The federal interstate weight limit has been frozen at 80,000 pounds in most states since 1982. Since then, freight shipped throughout the U.S. has increased dramatically, putting more trucks on the road and nearly doubling vehicle miles traveled each year. Truck traffic is currently growing 11 times faster than road capacity, and freight hauled by trucks in the U.S. will double by 2035, according to U.S. DOT estimates. If current vehicle weight limitations remain in place, even more trucks will have to take to the road to ship these goods - putting our safety at risk and hurting the American economy and our environment.

Updating federal law through the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612) to allow for the use of heavier trucks with a sixth axle would enable companies to consolidate freight on fewer trucks and further reduce collisions between trucks and passenger vehicles. The legislation would permit American shippers to move the same amount of freight with fewer trucks - reducing fuel, emissions, road wear and overall transportation costs.
In these challenging economic times, the significant savings resulting from this proposal would provide a much-needed boost for American
businesses that are at a global competitive disadvantage against countries with higher weight limits.


Q: What is the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612)?
A: The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612), now under consideration in the House of Representatives, would increase gross vehicle weight limits to 97,000 pounds on federal interstate highways for vehicles equipped with an additional (sixth) axle. Shipments would be consolidated, allowing for fewer trucks and safer highways as freight grows with the U.S. economy. The increased weight limit would also improve shipping efficiency with reduced environmental impact. An additional (sixth) axle would maintain safety, while a user fee for six-axle units would fund vital bridge repair. A provision requiring states to opt-in to the legislation would prevent this from being a national mandate.


Q: Aren't these bigger trucks?
A: No. The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612) allows for heavier - not bigger - trucks. The size of a tractor-trailer would not change. The bill would add an additional axle and tires to the same-sized trucks currently on our interstates. Under the proposed legislation, a 22-wheel truck at the 97,000 pound weight limit would maintain the same braking capacity and average weight per tire as a traditional 18-wheel truck at the 80,000 pound limit.


Q: How will the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612) make roads safer?
A: Freight shipped in the U.S. is steadily increasing, and we need to make smart decisions to safely move goods and keep our economy running. H.R. 612 would consolidate freight on fewer trucks, allowing businesses to minimize the number of trucks needed to meet demand.

Also, the biggest single factor in the number of vehicle/tractor-trailer accidents is vehicle miles traveled. Tractor-trailers are traveling twice as many miles as in 1982, when the current federal weight limit was set. More trucks must travel more miles to meet demand, increasing the chances of collision. Reducing the number of trucks needed to deliver a specific amount of freight would reduce vehicle miles traveled and therefore make roads safer. For example, under full implementation of H.R. 612, MillerCoors would need 2,000 fewer trucks each week-eliminating more than one million weekly vehicle miles.

Academic studies and empirical evidence have shown that raising the weight limit to 97,000 pounds for six-axle trucks would improve highway safety and maintain current road standards.

  • Since the United Kingdom raised its gross vehicle weight limit to 97,000 pounds for six-axle vehicles in 2001, fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35 percent. More freight has been shipped, while the vehicle miles traveled to deliver a ton of freight has declined.
  • A 2009 Wisconsin DOT study found that if a law like the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612) been in place in 2006, it would have prevented 90 truck-related accidents in the state during that year.
  • The Transportation Research Board determined that heavier vehicles with additional axles do not lose stopping capability as long as axle weight limits are not exceeded.

Q: How will the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act  (H.R. 612) affect the environment?
A: Vehicle weight limit reform will benefit the environment by requiring fewer trucks to ship America's growing freight - saving fuel and reducing green house emissions. 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. The following studies also confirm the environmental, energy and climate-related benefits of increasing the federal weight limit.

  • A 2008 American Transportation Research institute study found that six-axle trucks carrying 97,000 pounds get 17 percent more ton-miles per gallon than five-axle trucks carrying 80,000 pounds, reducing carbon emissions.
  • The U.S. DOT estimates that raising the federal weight limit would save 2billion gallons of diesel fuel annually and result in a 19 percent decrease in fuel consumption and emissions per ton mile.
  • If H.R. 612 were to be adopted nationwide, CTP Member Kraft Foods would save 6.6 million gallons of fuel and eliminate 73,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.

Q: How will the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612) affect the economy?
A: Raising weight limits will help the American economy domestically and will help U.S. businesses improve their competitive edge. The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009 (H.R. 612) will allow American producers to consolidate goods and reduce the number of weekly shipments needed to move a specific amount of freight. This transition to a more efficient transportation network would lower consumer costs. Raising the weight limits for six-axle vehicles would also spur investment in upgraded equipment and create jobs. Under H.R. 612, CTP member International Paper would save about $70 million per year in truck transportation costs alone.

American gross vehicle weight limits are among the lowest of industrialized nations. Canada, Mexico and most European nations now have higher vehicle weight limits without any deterioration of safety. America's low weight standards put the nation at a productivity disadvantage. When cargo is delivered to U.S. ports, it must often be offloaded and sent to a warehouse where it is broken down to fit on lighter U.S. trucks. This reduces productivity and adds cost to U.S. shippers and consumers. Further, many states currently allow higher weight vehicles with additional axles for specific commodities on state roads.


Q: Wouldn't increasing the weight limit damage bridges and increase road wear?
A: The user fee for 97,000-pound, six-axle trucks would fund accelerated bridge repair and maintenance, while individual units would hold the same average weight per tire as lighter trucks. Additionally, the higher weight limit would cut the number of trucks needed for shipments-saving $2.4 billion in pavement restoration costs over 20 years, according to a U.S. DOT study. Because fewer trucks would satisfy America's shipping needs, less overall weight would be put on our nation's roads and bridges. For example, the full implementation of H.R. 612 would allow CTP member International Paper to eliminate more than 5 million pounds of weight on roads and bridges traveled weekly from one facility alone.


Q: Why not conduct pilot programs in a few select states to prove the concept before it is implemented nationally?
A: The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612) would allow each state to decide whether to raise the weight limit on interstate systems within the state. Only states that choose the increased weight option will allow heavier trucks. The fact that not all states will participate immediately provides a type of "pilot" that other states can learn from. Furthermore, we are asking for rules that have already proven successful in many states (on state roads) and in most of the developed world. Studies conducted in the United Kingdom, the European Union and the state of Wisconsin are all examples of the net benefits of allowing six-axle 97,000 pound vehicles on interstate highways.

It is also important to note that the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612) also requires participating states to closely monitor and demonstrate the safety of increasing the federal vehicle weight limit. Participating states would have to produce an annual report and a description of operating requirements. The bill would also require a five-year assessment of impacts, if any, of these vehicles on pavement and bridge maintenance costs. Each state's Secretary of Transportation could terminate the operation of vehicles over 80,000 pounds on any routes that pose a safety risk.

Q: Would increasing the interstate weight limit will mean more trucks on the road?
A:
Opponents of H.R. 612 like to say that truck traffic in this country skyrocketed after the last weight increase in the 1980s, as if the weight increase were responsible. Economic growth drove the increase, and if we want a growing economy, we should continue to plan for increased trucking demand in the years ahead. (The U.S. DOT estimates that freight hauled by trucks in the U.S. will nearly double by 2035.)

The passage of H.R. 612 will simply allow an individual company to use fewer trucks to deliver a given amount of products.  Enabling our manufacturers, growers and producers to be more efficient is the best way to ensure our prosperity in the years ahead.


Q: Would H.R. 612 put heavier trucks on roads and bridges that weren't built to handle the extra weight?
A:
First, H.R. 612 would implement a user fee for six-axle units that would fund vital bridge repair. Also, passage of the bill won't result in immediate nationwide acceptance of a heavier weight limit. Each state would decide whether to raise the limit within its borders, and H.R. 612 would require participating states to closely monitor and demonstrate the safety of increasing the federal vehicle weight limit.

Additionally, each state's Secretary of Transportation could prevent vehicles weighing more than 80,000 pounds from operating on any interstate routes that pose a safety risk. The bill would also require a five-year assessment of impacts, if any, on pavement and bridge maintenance costs.

Furthermore, the addition of a sixth axle minimizes wear by ensuring that no additional weight per tire results from the higher weight limits. Fewer trucks will be needed to carry a fixed amount of freight, which means less overall weight on any given stretch of pavement-saving $2.4 billion in pavement restoration costs over 20 years, according to a U.S. DOT study.


Q: Who opposes the interstate truck weight increase?
A: Certain anti-truck "safety" groups, Teamsters, railroads and certain segments of the owner-operated trucking industry are opposed to increasing truck weight limits on interstate highways. When stating their positions, many groups do not take into account the addition of a sixth axle. The additional axle, required by H.R. 612, would maintain braking capability, safety performance and the current distribution of weight per tire, while the legislation reduces road wear by allowing fewer trucks to ship a specific amount of freight.

In their opposition to raising the weight limit, anti-truck "safety" groups also cite accidents caused by truck drivers who disobey the law, not accidents caused by trucks operating under current legal requirements.

There have been many truck safety advancements since 1982 that make the proposed weight increase a safe alternative to putting more trucks on the road. Anti-lock brakes, training requirements and other safety improvements have cut fatal accident rates in half.


Q: Is increasing weights the solution to the road congestion issue?
A:
We believe it is a necessary, but not entirely sufficient, step to addressing the issue. Freight hauled by trucks in the U.S. is expected to at least double by 2035, and truck traffic is growing 11 times faster than road capacity. Efforts to improve trucking productivity, however, are critical to addressing these challenges and alleviating the problems facing America's freight transportation network.



Q: Wouldn't allowing trucks to carry more freight reduce job availability for truck drivers?
A: The U.S. has long struggled with a shortage of long-haul truck drivers that will quadruple by 2014 from 2004 levels. Even with increased weight limits, the driver shortage (and available trucking jobs) will still exist.


Q: Wouldn't adding more capacity to trucks shift business from the railroads?
A: There is no evidence to suggest that more productive trucks draw significant amounts of freight from the railroads. The Wisconsin study cited previously found no evidence that this proposal would shift goods from railroads to trucks. Rail transportation is often the first choice for shipping products where it is available, cost effective and meets the service requirements.


Q: Do trucks pay their fair share for roads?
A: Yes, trucks constitute 13 percent of the vehicle-miles-traveled, 11 percent of all registered vehicles, and pay more than 34 percent of the highway users' fee revenue. Since the vast majority of vehicles on the road during peak periods are passenger vehicles, trucks' responsibility for these costs is very low in comparison.


Q: Why is 97,000 pounds the correct weight limit?
A: The 97,000 pound figure has been the subject of considerable research that shows it is an optimal figure to increase transportation productivity without diminishing safety or increasing road wear. The 97,000 limit is currently used in Canada, Great Britain and much of Europe. The figure is also easily arrived at by dividing in half the current tandem axle weight limit of 34,000 lbs., which equals 17,000 lbs. on each axle. By adding 17,000 lbs. to the current interstate weight limit of 80,000 lbs., you arrive at 97,000 lbs. This allows tractor-trailers to increase their gross weights without increasing axle weights by adding a sixth axle.


Q: Who is advocating the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 612)?
A: CTP and AgHaul, a coalition of forestry companies. CTP currently has more than 185 shippers and related industry members publicly supporting this legislation. Other industry groups that strongly support the bill are the American Trucking Association (ATA), the National Industrial Transportation League and the National Private Truck Council. The San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, responsible for air quality management in California's largest agricultural production region, also supports increasing the federal vehicle weight limit for its positive environmental and economic impact.

 


http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/nat_freight_stats/docs/06factsfigures/table2_2.htm

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/adobepdf/162469/221412/221522/222944/28584011/01_Road_Freight_Stats_2007.pdf

http://transportationproductivity.org/Studies/WisconsinDOT_TruckS_WStudy_1-1-09_final.pdf

http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/sr/sr267.pdf

http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/environmentalfactors/2008_atri_hpv_1_pager.pdf  

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/tswstudy/Vol3-Chapter10.pdf

 

 

 



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