Heavier Trucks Encouraged

A report by the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board (TRB), Washington, D.C., suggests that the interstate highway system accept trucks weighing 10,000 pounds more than the current 80,000-pound limit to improve efficiency and move freight at a lower cost.

Simultaneously, a proposal by the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation has been introduced in Congress, calling for truck freeways on interstate highways that would separate truck traffic from passenger cars.

The TRB report, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C., also recommends tandem trucks that currently carry two 28-foot-long trailers be allowed to haul two 33-foot-long trailers.

TRB's conclusions were praised by the trucking industry and criticized by highway safety groups. Jackie Gillan, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, stresses the importance of truck safety rather than weight.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, of the 5,192 people killed last year in large truck collisions, 78 percent were in the other vehicle.

Congress requested the study as part of its 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

Although the report does not specify single-unit or specialized hauling vehicles, it is important to follow, says Chaz Miller, director of state programs for the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), Washington, D.C. “The report doesn't apply per se to compaction trucks, but the wording may be intended to be specifically referring to weight limits governed by Bridge Formula B [by which the waste industry is affected],” he says.

TRB also suggested a new federal agency study the effects of trucks on the country's highway system, as well as focus on truck safety and more overall research. Lawmakers will revisit the issue sometime next year.

Meantime, Congress is discussing the Reason Foundation's proposal for heavier trucks that would travel in special lanes on existing highways separated from car lanes by concrete barriers. The cost for these “truck freeways,” according to an economic feasibility study, would be financed by tolls paid by truckers and would reduce trucking industry costs by up to $40 billion per year.

U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, wants to include a pilot to test this idea in next year's highway bill.

To view the TRB study, visit www.trb.org, and click Special Report 267. To view the Reason Foundation's proposal, visit www.reason.org.