A study from the Soy Transportation Coalition examines the effects of increasing truck weight limits on federal highways, finding that heavier trucks can provide more efficiency without adding to wear and tear on U.S. highways.
The study, "Heavier Semis: A Good Idea?" was funded by the soybean checkoff and is an update of a 2009 report that looks at the impact of increasing truck weight limits on federal roads and bridges from the current 80,000 lbs., with a five-axle configuration to 97,000 lbs., with the addition of a sixth axle.
The analysis specifically looked at the impacts on motorist safety, infrastructure wear and tear, and potential cost savings and efficiency gains for agriculture and the U.S. economy.
According to the American Soybean Association, demand for trucking is projected to continue to increase in the U.S. in coming years. The group is urging Congress to increase investments in every facet of transportation infrastructure, including roads and bridges, locks and dams, ports, and measures that will improve rail service.
The STC study provides additional support and justification that increasing trucking capacity can be done with no adverse impact to safety while providing significant economic benefits, ASA said in a press statement.
Allowing six-axle, 97,000 lbs. semis will result in fewer semis on the road compared to the status quo and fewer trucks on the road will result in fewer accidents and injuries, the group said.
The studies and analysis also show that the braking distance of a six axle truck weighing 97,000 lbs. is the same as a five axle, 80,000 lbs. truck.
The study further highlights how a six-axle, 97,000 lbs. semi will result in a reduction of weight per tire of 35 lbs. compared to a five axle, 80,000 lbs. semi, reducing wear and tear on the nation's roads. Many states already allow weights higher than 80,000 lbs on state roads, ASA said.
For transporting soybeans and soy products, allowing six-axle, 97,000 lbs. semis will result in 1.2 million fewer truck trips, 5.5 million fewer gallons of fuel consumed, 56 thousand fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and between $11 million - $28 million in reduced fuel costs, the study found.
The use of a six axle, 97,000 lbs. semi will enable a farmer to transport at minimum an additional 183 bushels of soybeans per load, the group said. By 2022, this will annually save soybean farmers 602,000 truck trips, 1.7 million gallons of fuel, and between $4 million - $8 million in reduced fuel costs.
The full study, "Heavier Semis: A Good Idea?" can be accessed at soytransportation.org.