The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently considered several supply chain-related bills. H.R. 3372, introduced by Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-SD), would establish a voluntary pilot program for states to increase truck weights on federal interstates up to 91,000 pounds on six axles. Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, says the bill is a commonsense solution to many challenges.
Steenhoek; “There has been an effort for a considerable period of time to increase the efficiency of truck transportation, and a number of states have done so. They allow trucks that are heavier in weight with additional axles to operate on state and local systems, but it’s always been a challenge to get that instituted at the federal level on the interstate system. The opponents of it, you know, it’s easy to have more of a knee-jerk reaction to this and just make an assumption that if you have a heavier truck, that must mean a more dangerous system. And that’s not the case when you have an additional axle.”
An extra axle on trucks transporting goods would be better for the interstate system according to Steenhoek; “You displace the weight so that the actual imprint on the road is less than a five-axle 80,000-pound semi. And it also is safer because you, all of a sudden, add an additional set of brakes so that the stopping distance will be less. So, there’s a good message to tell on this. It is a commonsense solution, but there historically have been some challenges in getting it instituted.”
The legislation would address some of the challenges the supply chain has battled since COVID-19. He says; “We have a truck driver shortage. We have a desire to decrease costs. We want to decrease emissions. We want to transport more. And what we found is that by adding that additional axle, and then you add additional weight, you’re able to increase efficiency and cost savings for agriculture and other utilizers of the system. But you’re also actually increasing motorists safety. And the main way in which you achieve that is you’re taking a given amount of freight and you’re apportioning that over fewer semi-trucks.”
He says simple math shows the advantage of the extra axle and weight for transportation to and from elevators.
Steenhoek; “An elevator that has to restrict itself to an 80,000-pound five-axle semi will have 838 additional semi trips in a given year. So, 838 additional times in which a semi is leaving that facility and returns to that facility. And clearly, that scenario is going to present more danger than having those 838 trips never materialize in the first place. So, it has a good story to tell on motorist safety, on infrastructure wear and tear, and then, of course, with additional cost savings, efficiency gains, fewer emissions, all these things that we really want to do. We want to check a lot of these boxes, and this is a piece of legislation that would achieve that.”
The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate.