The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) recently joined in signing a letter to Congress supporting a pilot program designed to obtain information on the safety and environmental benefits of increasing the maximum commercial truck weight on interstate highways.
In the letter sent to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee, more than 80 transportation stakeholders noted that it’s been 35 years since the government last updated the gross vehicle weight (GVW) limit of 80,000 pounds for federal interstate highways. Meanwhile, all 50 states have passed exceptions allowing trucks greater than this weight limit to operate on local roads. In addition, more than 30 states have higher GVW limits on their portions of interstate highways.
While states rightfully have updated GVW limits to better suit their individual needs, this often means trucks hauling more than 80,000 pounds are forced to operate on less ideal state highway infrastructure, “traveling on more local roads past schools, churches and playgrounds where pedestrians often are present,” stated the letter. The current 80,000-pound weight limit for trucks on interstate highways also results in some trucks remaining more than 40 percent empty, creating economic inefficiencies and forcing more trucks onto the highway system than otherwise would be needed, the letter noted.
The transportation stakeholders proposed to include language in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill to create a pilot program for states to study the effects of modernizing truck weight limits, which haven’t been updated since the standardization of anti-lock brakes on Class-8 tractors in 1982. The results should provide information on whether “there are more safe, more sustainable, and more productive ways to modernize the current 80,000-pound limit on federal Interstate Highways and give the states flexibility to move those loads on the safer Interstates and away from roads with pedestrians.”
Under the pilot program, 10 states could opt-in to allow 91,000-pound, six-axle, bridge formula-compliant trucks on federal interstate highways within their borders, and collect additional safety data regarding the GVW and axle configurations of commercial trucks involved in serious accidents.
“Such a pilot, similar to others included in previous appropriations bills, will provide critical information currently lacking but necessary to determine if significant benefits affiliated with this configuration can be realized in a way to preserve or enhance the safety our nation’s roads,” the letter stated.
The letter also cited a 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation study that found potential benefits of modernizing the baseline GVW limit to 91,000 pounds, including reductions in: stopping distance during braking, carbon dioxide emissions, fuel consumption, and life-cycle pavement costs.
This session, your association successfully lobbied for a change in Kansas law which increased the maximum gross truck weight standard on non-interstate roads in Kansas, up to 90,000 lbs. on six axles. In addition, your association staff has been in contact with NGFA to push for this new federal legislation concerning interstate roads, and has asked that Kansas be included in the list of states in the pilot program.