|The American Soybean Association (ASA) is touting a research project by the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) that examines the effects of increasing truck weight limits on federal highways. The project, titled, “Heavier Semis: A Good Idea?” was funded by the soybean checkoff and is an update of a 2009 report that looks at the impact of increasing truck weight limits on federal roads and bridges from the current 80,000 lbs., with a five axle configuration to 97,000 lbs., with the addition of a sixth axle. The analysis specifically looked at the impacts on motorist safety, infrastructure wear and tear, and potential cost savings and efficiency gains for agriculture and the U.S. economy.
Demand for trucking is projected to continue to increase in the U.S. in coming years and ASA is urging Congress to increase investments in every facet of our transportation infrastructure, including roads and bridges, locks and dams, ports, and measures that will improve rail service as well. Increasing trucking capacity and efficiency is a logical and essential step to meeting our current and future transportation needs.
The STC study provides additional support and justification that increasing trucking capacity can be done with no adverse impact to safety while providing significant economic benefits. Increasing truck weight limits on federal highways will not compromise safety. First and foremost, allowing six axle, 97,000 lbs. semis will result in fewer semis on the road compared to the status quo and fewer trucks on the road will result in fewer accidents and injuries. The studies and analysis also show that the braking distance of a six axle truck weighing 97,000 lbs. is the same as a five axle, 80,000 lbs. truck. These are not just theories and studies, but results that have been proven by real world experience in other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom that have implemented higher truck weight limits and seen a reduction in truck related accidents. The STC study projects such an approach in the U.S. will result in 98 fewer motorist fatalities by 2022.
The study further highlights how a six axle, 97,000 lbs. semi will result in a reduction of weight per tire of 35 lbs. compared to a five axle, 80,000 lbs. semi – reducing wear and tear on the nation’s roads. Many states already allow weights higher than 80,000 lbs on state roads.
For transporting soybeans and soy products, allowing six axle, 97,000 lbs. semis will result in 1.2 million fewer truck trips, 5.5 million fewer gallons of fuel consumed, 56 thousand fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and between $11 million – $28 million in reduced fuel costs. The use of a six axle, 97,000 lbs. semi will enable a farmer to transport at minimum an additional 183 bushels of soybeans per load. By 2022, this will annually save soybean farmers 602,000 truck trips, 1.7 million gallons of fuel, and between $4 million – $8 million in reduced fuel costs.
As Congress considers reauthorization of the Surface Transportation bill (aka the Highway bill) this year, ASA urges and will continue to advocate for the inclusion of provisions to allow states to adopt increased truck weight limits of 97,000 lbs. for six axle trucks on federal interstates. It’s safer, more efficient, and necessary to meet the growing transportation needs for soybean farmers and many other U.S. industries.
The full study, “Heavier Semis: A Good Idea?” can be accessed at www.soytransportation.org.