During floor debate of Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act in early November, the House of Representatives voted to defeat the “Safe Trucking Act” amendment proposed by Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI). The legislation would have allowed states to permit six-axle, 91,000-pound semis on their interstate system. The final vote was 187 ayes, 236 nays, and 10 who did not vote.
More than 70 of the nation’s leading food and agriculture associations — including the American Farm Bureau, American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition, American Soybean Association, International Dairy Foods Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Grain and Feed Association, and the National Farmers Union — sent a letter urging Congress to include the Safe, Flexible and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act (H.R. 3488) as an amendment to the highway reauthorization legislation.
In the letter, the organizations wrote: “In the agriculture and food industries, our farms and businesses are growing and making products more resourcefully, but outdated federal transportation rules force trucks to leave the farm and our plants when they are partly empty. By giving states the option to raise the federal gross vehicle weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five, the SAFE Trucking Act would safely modernize truck shipments on Interstate highways by reducing the number of trucks needed to move our commodities and products through better utilization of existing capacity.”
In its most recent “Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study,” the U.S. Department of Transportation found that six-axle trucks can safely weigh up to 91,000 pounds — the configuration allowable under the SAFE Trucking Act — while yielding significant truckload reductions, pavement wear savings and environmental efficiency benefits without diverting significant freight from rail. The U.S. DOT has also stated that the configuration is compliant with the federal bridge formula, and that wide use of the SAFE Trucking Act configuration would not cause any increase in one-time rehabilitation costs for Interstate bridges. Critically, the SAFE Trucking Act enables the U.S. DOT to require additional safety equipment for these vehicles before states can put these trucks to work.