Congress Reintroduces Max Truck Weight Cap Bill

February 21, 2011

The Coalition for Transportation Productivity has been lobbying hard for the reintroduction of the Safe & Efficient Transportation Act and they have finally succeeded. We've posted before on the max weight limit pilot scheme in Vermont and Maine, where truck weights are allowed up to 120,000 pounds (from the 80,000 pound, federally imposed limit). Representatives Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH) have sponsored the reintroduced Bill in the current legislative session.

The Bill (known as SETA) is timely as the federal government is reviewing the proposed Highways reconstruction deal which is the first package of logistic infrastructure initiatives to be looked at for six years.

The federal weight limit for eighteen-wheelers is set at 80,000 pounds, though individual states can set varying limits and handle oversize and overweight permits. The weight restriction applies to Interstate commerce (which falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government). SETA intends to ensure that trucking industry safety standards are improved whilst at the same time increasing industry sustainability and improving efficiency. A mainstay of SETA is the devolving of further state law making powers to individual states to increase Interstate trucking weight limits as they deem fit and appropriate. This will create a competitive factor between adjacent states who will compete for Interstate traffic by adjusting truck weight limits which will favor a particular weight class of commercial carrier.

SETA will specifically give individual states the power to increase truck weight limits form the 80,000 pound limit to 97,000 pounds (still far short of the pilot scheme operated in Maine and Vermont). The upper weight limit would also only apply to 6-axle vehicles (whereas most on the road today are 5-axle).

The main driver for the introduction of a relaxation in weight limits for Interstate commerce are coming from truck weight experience both north and south of the borders with Canada and Mexico. The trucking industry believes that unless steps are taken to improve efficiency, they will lose ground to Canadian and Mexican operators. With the proposed cross-border trucking initiative currently being proposed by the US Department of Transport, which is likely to go through given the support of so many commercial interest groups, this is a very real issue for American operators.

Under SETA, it is envisaged that the American trucking will be 30% more efficient by 2021 compared to current rates. In addition, the proposals are focusing upon increasing truck weight rather than semitrailer size. For those looking for a truck for sale, you're well advised to consider the highest rated power unit you can afford in anticipation of hauling heavier loads.

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