Increasing maximum operating weight and/or length of over-the-road trucks could decrease congestion, save fuel and reduce pollution, according to research released this week
Triple-trailer combinations are currently allowed in some states, such as Oregon.
Triple-trailer combinations are currently allowed in some states, such as Oregon.
by the American Transportation Research Institute (the research arm of the American Trucking Associations) and Cummins.

The research used computer modeling that reflects the operation of trucks at various weight classes with engines meeting current U.S. EPA engine emissions standards. The updated research confirms potential fuel efficiency improvements that can be achieved through the operation of higher productivity vehicles. These efficiency improvements also yield environmental improvements.

"With engine manufacturers striving to make cleaner, more efficient engines, this study highlights how efficiencies can also be gained through operational changes," said Tim Solso, Cummins Chairman and CEO and a member of the ATRI Board of Directors.

The research analyzed six different vehicle configurations: five-axle tractor-semitrailer, double, six-axle tractor-semitrailer, Rocky Mountain double, triple trailer combination and turnpike doubles.

In addition to investigating the operation of higher productivity vehicles at gross vehicle weights greater than the current federal limit, the updated study also investigated the operation of longer combination vehicles hauling low-density freight. For nearly every vehicle configuration studied, operating at higher weights allowed freight payloads to be increased at a greater rate than the additional fuel required to move the heavier load.

"As we look for ways to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing the supply chain efficiencies that the trucking industry supports, higher productivity vehicles should be considered as a viable part of an overarching solution," said Douglas G. Duncan, President and CEO of FedEx Freight and Chairman of the ATRI Board of Directors.

A one-page summary of the report is available on the ATRI website, Hard copies of the full report can be ordered through the website as well.