More than 100 associations and companies, including the National Private Truck Council, the Agricultural Transportation Efficiency Coalition and big companies like Kraft Foods and International Paper, today launched a coalition asking Congress to raise the truck weight limit.

The Coalition for Transportation Productivity supports the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009 (H.R. 1799), which would increase the weight limit on Interstate highways. Proponents say the move would improve trucking productivity and allow for safer highways, a cleaner environment and a stronger economy.

"America's freight transportation infrastructure is on the verge of becoming overwhelmed over the next decade," said CTP Co-Chair John Runyan. "Freight hauled by trucks in the U.S. is expected to double by 2025, and truck traffic is growing 11 times faster than road capacity. The Coalition for Transportation Productivity is asking Congress to responsibly reform truck weight limits with proper safeguards to allow the same amount of freight to be carried on fewer trucks, which will improve the efficiency of our interstates, reduce fuel use, and curb emissions."

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009 allows individual states to increase their interstate vehicle weight limits to 97,000 pounds - but only for vehicles equipped with a sixth axle. Without changing the size or length of the truck, the additional axle would maintain braking capacity and the current distribution of weight per tire while minimizing pavement wear. The bill also imposes a user fee for six-axle units that would fund vital bridge repair.

"Accident rates among heavy vehicles are strongly tied to the vehicle miles a truck must travel to deliver a ton of freight," Runyan continued. "A proposal like H.R. 1799 would reduce the number of vehicle miles and overall number of trucks needed to deliver a specific amount of freight, making roads safer while cutting fuel and emissions by as much as 19 percent for each ton carried."

A 2009 Wisconsin DOT study found that if a law like H.R. 1799 had been in place in 2006, it would have prevented 90 truck-related accidents in the state during 2006. Employers in the state would have saved more than $150 million in transportation costs.

In 2001, the United Kingdom raised the gross vehicle weight limit for six-axle trucks to 97,000 pounds. Since then, the coalition notes, fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35 percent. More freight has been shipped, while the vehicle miles traveled to deliver a ton of freight declined.

Learn more about the proposed six-axle configuration and the legislation in "Trailer Report" in the June issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.