U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act ( S. 3705) as an identical companion to legislation now pending in the House. The bill would permit state DOTs to raise interstate weight limits within their states to 97,000 lbs for trucks equipped with six axles instead of five, according to the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), which supports the measure.

“This bipartisan legislation gives states the option to increase interstate truck weight limits in a safe manner so that we can get more goods from the farm or factory to consumers in fewer trips and fewer vehicle miles,” said Sen. Crapo. Many trucks now hit the federal weight limit with space left in their trailers. The U.S. DOT estimates that the use of six-axle trucks could save as much as $14.5 billion in shipping costs annually. SETA will also make U.S. goods more competitive in the global marketplace, as Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries already have higher weight limits.”

“Our legislation would finally create a level playing field for truck weight limits on interstate highways in all states,” noted Sen. Collins. “Under federal law, trucks heavier than 80,000 lbss are forced off the interstate and onto local roads in several states, including my home state of Maine, creating safety hazards for motorists and pedestrians and causing road wear and tear. However, a weight exemption for these same trucks permits them to travel on interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. This disparity for certain states simply makes no sense and puts them at an economic disadvantage. Our legislation would allow all states to have the option of increasing truck weight limits on the Interstate System.”

“This bipartisan legislation strikes the right balance between productivity and safety,” added Sen. Kohl. “I’ve met with a number of people in Wisconsin who say this legislation will make their business more efficient and allow them to invest in their company and add jobs. This legislation will allow us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut air pollution, and keep American businesses competitive.”

CTP, which consists of “more than 160 shippers and allied associations dedicated to responsibly increasing federal weight limits on interstate highways,” said the added axles would not make a truck larger, but would “maintain safety specifications, including stopping capability and current weight per tire.”

The group contends that the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act “would safely make the shipment of heavier cargo more efficient as many trucks meet the current 80,000-lb federal weight limit with significant space [left] in their rigs.” Under the new act, CTP added, shippers could safely utilize extra cargo space and reduce truck loads, fuel, emissions and vehicle miles traveled for each ton of freight shipped.

“With freight increases in the forecast, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act would make roads safer, greener and more efficient – both now and in the future,” said CTP executive director John Runyan. “The American Trucking Assns. estimates that the trucking industry will haul 30% more tonnage in 2021 than it does today. If current weight restrictions remain the same, that means our economy will require 18% more trucks on the road driving 27% more miles than they do now. The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act would ease the burden on our roads by adjusting weight limits to safely reduce the number of trucks required to ship a given amount of goods.

“The truck weight reform outlined in the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act is not a new concept,” Runyan added. “The UK raised its gross vehicle weight limit to 97,000 lbs for six-axle vehicles in 2001 and has experienced exactly what we need in the U.S. More freight has been shipped, yet vehicle miles traveled have leveled off and fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35%. Additionally, the Wisconsin DOT found that a law like the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act would have prevented 90 truck-related accidents on Wisconsin roads during 2006.”

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, H.R. 1799, was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH). It currently has 54 cosponsors.