The Department of Transportation estimated that the amount of freight moved in the U.S. would increase 87% by 2020, from its 2000 levels.  This prediction is becoming a reality as increasingly more products are in the marketplace, and the demand for transporting these goods across the country continues to rise.  The capacity crunch resulting from increased demand has been compounded by soaring diesel prices and driver shortages.

Proposed Solutions
AF&PA agrees with the recommendation of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 2002 study on commercial vehicle weight, that an increase in the maximum allowable weight of six-axle semi-trailers is an effective way to increase truck productivity.  According to the TRB statistics, increasing the weight maximum from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds would lead to the following benefits:

• Less Congestion:  Current waiting periods average 36 hours per motorist per year, 3 times the level in 1982, and congestion costs in 1999 totaled $78 billion. With 97,000-pound weight limits, large trucks would travel 10 million few miles per year, which equates to an 11% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

• Improved Highway Safety:  Allowing trucks to carry more weight, with the addition of a sixth axle, would enable fewer trucks to transport the same freight.  The TRB study estimate of 10 million fewer VMT per year would lead to 25,000 fewer accidents.  Further, statistics including stopping distance, rollover, and load transfer ratio all show nearly the exact safety record for 97,000-pound six-axle trucks as for 80,000-pound five-axle trucks. 

• Increased Efficiency:  If fewer trucks were allowed to transport the same freight, an estimated 1.9 billion gallons of fuel would be saved annually, resulting in the prevention of 6.5 million tons of criteria pollutants emitted into the atmosphere each year. 

• Less Wear and Tear:  Allowing trucks to carry 97,000 pounds with a sixth axle creates a “softer footprint” as the weight is distributed more evenly on the pavement.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), this effect, coupled with the result of fewer trucks on the interstates, would lead to a 20-year pavement restoration costs savings of nearly $2.5 billion.  Further, the TRB cites the confusing and anti-productivity nature of the current bridge weight formula and suggests a simpler model that would allow six-axle trucks to travel the Interstate.

• Improved Competitiveness:  DOT and others anticipate that with this increased weight allowance, up to $15 billion would be saved in shipping costs annually.  Canada, Mexico and much of Europe already allow 97,000-pound six-axle trucks, and the current 80,000-pound limit in the U.S. puts the forest products industry at a further competitive disadvantage.

Last Updated: 04/09/07