The American Trucking Associations (ATA) strongly supports the "Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) of 2010," S. 3705, introduced Aug. 4 by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). The legislation would allow states to authorize the operation of more efficient commercial trucks, which could result in safer highways, cleaner air and less costly freight transportation. Identical legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1799, currently has 54 co-sponsors.
The bill authorizes states to allow the operation of trucks on the Interstate Highway System with a gross weight of 97,000 pounds. Current law limits the weight of five-axle trucks traveling on the interstate system to 80,000 pounds. The legislation requires that trucks operating above 80,000 pounds must add a sixth axle to compensate for the extra weight. The extra axle adds additional braking capacity, preventing an increase in stopping distances, and prevents pavements from sustaining more damage.
Operation of these more efficient vehicles, the ATA believes, will allow trucking companies to deliver freight while making fewer trips. The result could be a reduction in the number of truck-involved crashes, less fuel use—and thus reduced emissions and carbon—and less congestion on the highways. Any additional bridge costs will be covered by a higher federal fee that the vehicles authorized to operate under this legislation will be required to pay, and which will be dedicated to bridge investments in those states that authorize use of the heavier trucks.
The ATA believes that existing restrictions on truck weight limits constrain the trucking industry's efforts to reduce crashes, lower the industry's carbon footprint and help customers to remain competitive in global markets. The trade organization points out that U.S. weight limits are reportedly the lowest in the developed world, which the ATA says puts American businesses at a distinct disadvantage.