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The DOT Doctor Speaks
Thursday, June 18 2009
Might the Obama administration be minded to look favourably on a mooted increase in US GVW?
This report suggests that upping maximum GVW to 97000 lbs (43998 kg) on six axles from the current 80,000 lbs (36287 kg) on five could reduce US diesel consumption by an annual three billion gallons, and take 32.6 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere at the same time.
The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009 or HR 1799 is legislation that supports the increase in GVW on heavy trucks.  The trucks must have 6 axles with a triaxle group supporting 51,000 lbs.  Axle weights would increase by 2,000 each for this GVW.  Weights are only applicable on interstate roadways.  This comes with a tax hike in highway usages taxes to $800.
In theory, the idea is a good one but let us examine this a bit closer.  Our infrastructure is suffering collapses now under the 80k rule.  In the present economy, there are no or limited funds for fixing and repairing what is in place yet alone replacing our bridges and overpasses to accomodate this extra weight.   Longer trucks and extra axles may be the norm in MI but they do not work on the east coast in all that congestion.  Not that I support Unions, but they opposed doubles and triples claiming it "stole a driver's work" and their opinions are not very different on these new proposed monsters.
This new weight limit will not reduce congestion as some law makers lead you to believe.  Trucks are not the only factor in congestion.  Mainly the problem is all the 4-wheelers especially at rush hours.  If states would make a left hand lane or two just for trucks that are looking to do nothing but pass through their city and restrict those 2 left lanes to just trucks; that would help solve congestion.  It never made sense to me why trucks were restricted to right lanes where there is constant merging of 4-wheelers and motorcycles causing the trucker to constantly be on the brakes.  Trucks generally want through a city unlike 4 wheelers who are looking to go or come from work, shopping and other errands.  Many cities came up with HOV lanes to help the "long distance" commuter.  Why not do the same for the trucker?
Trucks already pay too much in taxes.  A rise in the Highway Usage Tax is not justified.  It is just another excuse to tax the trucker for the benefit of all motorists.
If the weight is only raised for interstates; how will the load be delivered?  Are we going to implement the NY Tollway rule?  You can pull highway doubles but only to the exit then the units are broken apart or off loaded.  Five axle units find it hard enough to maneuver on the coasts and in town delivery areas.  Triaxles and 6 axle vehicles will find it even more difficult if not impossible to maneuver those small streets of Philly or Fairfax.  NYC - forget it!  Moreover, the state roads and city streets will not support the weight. 
Do we have cross docking facilities created at interstate exits for local drivers to deliver the goods?   Now that would be a reasonable idea IF, and this is a big IF, companies could "play" that well together.  Let the big rig roll the highway while the straight trucks and local drivers load the city work and carry it to/from the cross docking facilities.  It would be a new trucking horizon.  The city drivers could do as NYC suggests and deliver in the off hours reducing congestion.  Road drivers could stick to the highways.  Everyone would have a job and get a piece of the pie.  Road drivers no longer would have to contend with driving back streets trying to find their delivery or pick up location.  Local drivers, familiar with the area, would handle those aspects.  It would be safer and easier for all.  IF companies would share the pie in this fashion. 
Supporters such as the Univ. of MI Transportation Research Institute claims their research shows that these heavier and longer trucks "would yield significant improvement in fuel consumption, cost, congestion, distribution efficiency and driver availability".  I have to question this since my experience with 25 years in the industry showed me that the move to 53ft trucks yielded lighter loads filled with bulk goods like toilet paper.  Occasionally you were able to add the 2 extra end pallets but then the driver generally had to be concerned for bridge and axle weights.  Why not make the adjustments there instead of this large GVW increase?  Maybe area increases like in MI where they haul products that are conducive to this increase and already have the multi-axle vehicle on the roadways.  Even their state roads accomodate the 90K GVW allowed during the "season".
Personally, I fell this increase should be handled on a state level where states can supplement their state highways to handle any GVW increase they allow.  States that handle product transports, which are generally under a 500 mile radius, of a nature to require this need should handle this internally.   Coal, rock and cement haulers could benefit from the increase as would the specialized/permitted hauler.  These products are naturally heavy as well as localized.  The general freight hauler would not.
Are manufactures going to build better brake systems to accomodate this additional load?  To work properly, this would not be just a trailer issue but a full rig issue that is spec'd to pull these heavier and longer trailers.  Trucks already take longer to stop than smaller vehicles.  Stopping an additional 17k on a downgrade requires better mechanics and driver considerations.  Think Eagle Pass, Eisenhower, Donner, Cabbage or Grapevine. The proposed governor to limit top speed at manufacturing is not the answer here.  I do not think it is the answer to anything unless you are going to do the same to ALL vehicles else you are just creating another road hazard like Swift and Schneider trucks already do on the highways due to their inability to maintain highway speed.
Are bridge lengths and overall truck lengths going to be increased as well?  It is already ridiculous to allow a 53 ft, 57 ft or 62 ft trailer and still require it to meet the bridge laws of a 48ft.  Imposing those restraints is what defeats the purpose of the longer trailer.  Yes, the roads cannot accomodate the longer pin to wheel which brings me back to point 1.  Who will pay to change all the roads if this increase is passed?  How long will it take?  What will the trucks do in the mean time that will try to run under the new laws without an adequate infrastructure?  Less us not even discuss vehicles that will be involved in border crossings?????
COMMENTS WELCOMED!   Voice your opinion to your Congressman or local Motor Truck Association.
Posted by: The DOT Doctor AT 03:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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