Posts Tagged “weight limits”

Higher Truck Limits Push Coming with Highway Funding Bill

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003It’s common knowledge and has been for decades that the majority of truckers, especially long haul truckers oppose have higher weight limits since the last weight increase from about 73,280 pounds to 80,000 pounds occurred 30 years ago.  The primary reasons drivers are against putting more weight in their trailers are pretty obvious.

First of all, the added weight results in greater wear and tear on their equipment.  Added weight also results in increased consumption of diesel fuel and less miles per gallon.  Equally important is the guys and gals behind the wheel of big rigs realized hauling more weight with the negatives just mentioned, certainly doesn’t mean they will be receiving more money in the form of higher freight rates. 

This said, the rest of the information below is mostly what is coming from the other side of this issue.

New federal legislation that would give states the option to raise the Interstate system truck weight limit to 91,000 pounds for vehicles with six axles is supported by 32 organization such as United Fresh Produce Association, the National Potato Council and groups representing other industries such as food, manufacturing, beverage and forestry industries.

The group sent a letter in support of heavier trucks to Chmn. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and is called the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 3488, known as SETA). Supporters claim the bill that is consistent with safety concerns and say heavier trucks won’t harm highways and bridges.  They also state the legislation would result in fewer trucks to move more product in a safe way, thus reducing truck traffic.

With nearly 70% of all U.S. freight moved by trucks and total freight tonnage expected to grow nearly 25% over the next 10 years. This legislation claims it will increase truck capacity by 13% without adding more vehicles and ultimately reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

They also state the higher weight limit would reduce transportation costs for fresh produce.

“With trucking being the overwhelmingly dominant mode of domestic transport for fresh fruits and vegetables, it is imperative that our industry be able to move commodities by promoting efficiency and cost-savings, as well as safety and maintaining infrastructure as much as possible,” read a statement issued by the United Fresh Produce Association.

This will be a key component of the transportation message that United Fresh will deliver to Congress at the Sept. 28-30 Washington, D.C. Conference by United Fresh.

The letter previously mentioned referenced a recent study revealing a 91,000 pound truck with six axles can stop at the same distance traveling at 60 miles per hour as its 80,000 pound counterpart with five axles. NPC believes the study proves that truck weight reform is a commonsense and safe approach to lower the number of truck miles driven, improve highway safety and reduce wear to pavement. Rep. Ribble plans to offer H.R. 3488 as an amendment to the transportation act for highway funding.

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United Produce Panel’s View of Trucking

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If you want to know how produce trucking issues are viewed by some folks in the produce industry, you should have been at the annual convention of the United Fresh Produce Association, held in Dallas.   Specifically, the session was held  on May 1st by wholesalers/distributors and titled Examing Today’s Transportation Challenges and Alternatives.

The 60-minute meeting was held in the same Dallas Convention Center that will host the Great American Trucking Show August 23-25.

Among the issues dealt with were the driver’s shortage, detention,  and hours of service.  (Within the next few days I’ll provide more coverage on the session ranging hours of service to stolen loads and dicussions of alternatives to trucks for moving produce).

On the program was moderator, Ron Carkoski, head of Four Seasons Produce, Inc.; Alex Crow, national trucking manager, Hellman Perishable Logistics; Ken Nable, president of Kington and Associates Marketing, LLC; Dan Vache’, vice president, supply chain management, United; and Gary York, general manager, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.

Concerning the availablity of drivers, Crow noted there was only a “moderate” shortage of drivers — amounting to about 200,000.  “We need to treat drivers as professionals.  We are feeling the shortage,” Crow related.  His logistics company had even hired professional “head hunters” to  find more drivers.  “We (as an industry) expect drivers to be professional, but often don’t treat them like professionals.”

Crow believes the driver shortage results from issues such as not paying them enough, to excessive waiting times for loading and unloading.  “With the multi pick ups and multi drops we have to let the customers (receivers) know they need to pay (extra) for that.”

York at C.H. Robinson concurs.  He points out driver salaries trail other occupations and many would be truckers chose higher paying jobs in construction and elsewhere.

“In 2004 we saw 1.6 million housing starts.  Today there are about 600,000.  Housing starts next year are projected to be about one million, and “drivers tend to go where the work is.  As the economy improves, the driver shortage will increase, and transportation will cost more in driver wages.”

Vache’ of United, who has an extensive background with in-tranist temperature recording devices (such as Ryan Instruments and SensiTech), adds, “Drivers are tired, not just of being treated like second class citizens, but third and fourth class citizens.  They are away from home a lot and they have families to support.  What can we do to make it more attractive for drivers to enter trucking?”

York urges shippers and receivers to work on efficiency in reducing wait times at the docks.  There also needs to be faster turn around times between loads.  He notes while detention charges certainly are not “mainstream” in the produce industry, detention charges are being applied more than in the past.

A benefit for drivers will be advances in technolgy, York believes, which can be used to expedite action on loads involving claims.  Technology can help “lay the blame” in a claims dispute and thus reduce the amount of claims arising.

Regarding efforts to increase gross vehicle weights for Class 8 trucks from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds, no one expressed much hope Congress will deal anytime soon with this issue.

Vache’ says increasing truck weight limits will be safer because of the industry continues to improve its safety record, equipment is better, etc.  Heavier loads will also reduce the number trucks on congested highway.

York calls the idea of bigger trucks “appealing.”

Nable adds that heavier trucks will reduce the “footprint.”   In other words, it would be good for the environment.

While the panel emphasizes the pros of increasing weight limits, the downside from a driver’s point of view were largely ignored.  For example, increased weight limits will result in more wear and tear on trucking equipment, consume more diesel fuel, and result in higher costs of operation for the trucker.  Will the produce industry willingly increase rates accordingly?  Most truckers I have talked to believe they will be expected to haul the heavier loads without additional compensation.  The prospects of the produce industry increasing freight rates for hauling heavier loads was not addressed by the panel.





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Truck Weight Limits

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There are still efforts in Congress to increase the gross weight limits for trucks.  One piece of legislation is the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 763).  This bill would allow increasing the weight limit from the current 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds.

Proponets of heavier trucks claim it will reduce greenhouse gases, ease what they see as an upcoming driver shortage when the economy improves, and make freight transportation more efficient.  In other words, fewer trucks can haul more freight and reduce highway congestion.  Heavier truck supporters also  say new hours of service regulations going into effect in 2013 will create increased demand for more equipment and drivers.

What proponets of heavier trucks usually don’t admit is they want to load more freight on the truck, but pay truckers the same old freight rate.  It doesn’t matter to them that heavier trucks also increase risk of more highway damage, not to mention the greater wear and tear on tractors and trailers, decreased miles per gallon and longer distances required for a big rig to stop resulting in more crashes.

Some things never seemed to change in trucking and this is one of those issues that has been out there for decades.

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