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Truck weight reform results in safer highways

In our nation’s capital, an effort has been revived to reform the rules for shipping cargo on federal highways. At issue is a federal interstate law that caps the truck weight maximum at 80,000 pounds for trucks with five axles. The National Potato Council (NPC) and others in the agriculture industry are urging our allies in Congress to increase the weight limits to 97,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles, which would increase the efficiency of shipping product to processors and consumers.

If this issue sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Although the issue of truck weight reform has been studied to death, opponents of reform successfully urged Congress to once again “study” the issue instead of finally fixing the problem during the debate over the 2012 highway reauthorization bill.

Now, after two years of unnecessary delay, the congressionally-mandated study is expected to be released sometime this summer, and a final report delivered to Congress in November.

We believe the study will declare what we already know: increasing the truck weight limit would be good for business, result in fewer trucks on the roads, lessen wear and tear on our infrastructure, release fewer emissions and promote highway safety.       

As a result, the NPC is working closely with its allies in the Coalition for Transportation Productivity to support the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), legislation that would raise the vehicle weight limit to 97,000 pounds.

Opponents of reform frequently resort to scare tactics and fearmongering in their lobbying, claiming that bigger and longer trucks will make our roads less safe. Yet, after the United Kingdom raised its gross vehicle weight limit to 97,000 pounds for six-axle vehicles in 2001, fatal truck-related accident rates actually have declined by 35 percent.

The fact is truck weight reform focuses on truck weight and not truck size. Increasing truck weight limits would reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled, which is the single biggest factor in highway accidents involving tractor trailers.

With many of our global competitors, including Mexico and Canada, enjoying the benefits of higher truck weight limits, the SETA would put domestic industries back on a level playing field.

At a time when input costs for potato growers across the country are on the rise, the industry is working together to fight for every possible efficiency, including truck weight shipping reform. 

— By John Keeling

Originally posted Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2014

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