Railcar shortage means higher demand for trucks

The railcar shortage across the Corn Belt will likely result in a greater demand for trucks to move grain this fall, according to the Mid-West Truckers Association. This increased demand is being considered as discussion continues about adding an axle to trucks and allowing more weight to be transported to alleviate the piles of the 2014 harvest that are beginning to form.

“Right now federal law allows a maximum of 80,000 pounds on a trailer, but there is a push out there to have that upped to 96,000 pounds,” said Don Schafer, Executive Vice President of Mid-West Truckers Association. “The only possible way to do that is to add an extra axle on the trailer. That is a tough one. Sure you are redistributing the weight, but the real issue isn’t about the interstate highways, built to higher standards, but the integrity of the smaller county and township roads.”

Schafer says the debate goes far beyond agriculture. He says many industries are considering the efficiency of moving 96,000 pounds of product with an additional trailer. He says the added axle can be done without safety risks.

“Many states have different types of regulations on the books,” Shafer said. “In Michigan you may see up to 10 axles on some of their trailers, but those trucks that have 10 axles are limited to only going on state highways. The added weight being discussed may solve the problem, but most of the runs in agriculture are going to be short distances, so maybe not.”

Regardless of the amount of grain a truck can haul, Schafer says a big issue this fall is a lack of available truck drivers, both for day drivers and those who drive across the country.

“I can give you the name of any truck company out there and they will have trucks that are parked because they can’t find qualified drivers,” Shafer said. “They need a driver that has a bit of experience, can pass a drug test and is interested in driving a truck locally or long haul. Right now it is very difficult to get a good driver and put them behind the wheel of a truck.”

The Mid-West Truckers Association represents and services more than 3,000 members in 15 states.

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