WASHINGTON — The Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), backed by a group of 200 manufacturers, shippers and carriers such as representatives from the American Forest and Paper Association and Anheuser-Busch, today made their case for six-axle trucks weighing 91,000 pounds, calling them safer, more cost-efficient and less polluting than their current 80,000-pound, five-axle counterparts.
The group met to support a bill introduced today by Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., called the Safe Trucking Act, which would let states opt to allow the heavier trucks on their interstate systems but only with the sixth axle, which CTP Executive Director Runyan said would have additional braking power and thus better stopping power than today’s conventional trucks and would get trucks off state, county and city roads, another safety benefit.
“Truck travel has grown 22 times faster than road capacity since the federal weight limit was last changed in 1982,” said Runyan. “Recognizing that more than 70 percent of freight must be shipped by truck, we need to confront the highway capacity crunch now if our country is to remain competitive. The Safe Trucking Act safely improves the productivity of truck shipments so we can decrease the truckloads necessary to meet demand and make our entire transportation network more efficient.”
Ribble said he expected support for the bill from Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and that the bill would be included as an amendment to the highway bill being marked up next week so it could be debated and discussed as a separate entity rather than embedded in the overall bill. He added that the bill had the backing of committee supporters in the Senate.
CTP representatives said they fully expect opposition from rail and safety groups, with Runyan calling rail opposition a “straw man argument” because it would take 1 percent or less freight from railroads and Ribble said that all products such as clothing, food and other consumable goods get the stores by truck already, not by rail.
They reiterated that the trailer size, itself, would not be longer or change at all, merely the weight allowed, when asked if people might confuse the bill with the controversial twin-33 trailers being discussed at present.
According to the CTP, a U.S. Department of Transportation size and weight study concluded that six-axle trucks “can safely weigh up to 91,000 pounds” and also meet weight allowances on interstate highway bridges.
When pressed about the greater stopping distance touted for the six-axle configuration, Runyan said they stop “one foot faster.”
Also in answer to reporters’ questions, James Sembrot, senior director, transportation for Busch, said trailers with the third axle would cost an extra $7,400 per trailer, which he said would be passed on to shippers who would be willing to pay because of the capacity benefits. Runyan added that he expected fleets to add the three-axle trailers (making six in all with the truck axles) gradually as they replaced their older trailers.
Runyan said currently more than 90 percent of states already allow heavier trucks with five axles to travel on state roads and that the bill makes sense in light of the estimate that freight tonnage is expected to grow nearly 25 percent over the next decade, with 70 percent carried by truck.
Speakers said they expected strong opposition to the bill by safety advocates who reacted negatively to any measure dealing with heavier trucks.
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