The Truckload Carriers Association is working on an alternative proposal for increased size and weight that would not require carriers to buy new equipment.

During his keynote speech at the McLeod Software User Conference in Birmingham, Ala., this week, TCA Chairman John Kaburick, president of Earl L. Henderson Trucking, pointed out that this is one issue where TCA has been opposed to the American Trucking Associations, which has been lobbying for a limit of 97,000 pounds with a six-axle configuration. TCA opposed that because it would mean expensive retrofits or buying totally new equipment -- and for truckload carriers, there likely would not be increased revenue to offset that expense.

"So we're putting together a proposal that would move it to 87,000 or 88,000 on the save five-axle configuration, that would not put any financial burden on the trucking companies."

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act was recently unveiled by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The rule would allow shippers to use extra cargo space and reduce truck loads, fuel, emissions and vehicle miles traveled, according to the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of more than 160 shippers and allied associations. An identical bill is being considered in the House of Representatives.

As we reported last year, most truckload carriers and owner-operators are leery of the idea. The advent of 48-footers and 53-footers didn't mean extra money for most, because shippers came to expect more cargo to be hauled for the same rates.

Most truckload carriers believe that history will repeat itself if they are pressured by shippers to switch to the heavier rigs. It would be expensive, generally requiring new vans, reefers and tankers because existing trailers are not strong enough to take a third axle and the extra 17,000 pounds of gross weight.

Other Projects

The TCA also is working on several other initiatives.

Hours of Service: The group is putting together a task force to try to convince the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to offer some sort of "split sleeper berth" provision as an incentive for fleets to go voluntarily to electronic logs.

Independent Contractor Status: "Because of most states being bankrupt, they're doing everything they can to try to collect funds, whether it's worker's comp, income tax, or unemployment," Kaburick said, by trying to get independent contractor reclassified as employees. "We're trying to get some form where all 50 states operate under the same level."

Sleep Apnea: The association is working to educate the industry on the issue of sleep apnea. "That's another area where plaintiffs' attorneys are really coming after trucking companies," Kaburick commented.

Private Fleets: TCA is looking at the possibility of including private fleets among its membership. "Several private fleets recently have wanted to join us because we're predominantly [active] on the education side, and that's where they feel they need the most help," Kaburick said. "So we've got a task force put together to look at doing that."

CSA 2010: "There's a lot of shippers out there that are really taking a position that they don't care about CSA 2010," Kaburick said, "that it's a carrier responsibility." So TCA has added a section on CSA 2010 to its website to help carriers educate shippers on the effect it will have on their supply chains.

Open Deck: TCA had the first meeting of its new open-deck division a few weeks ago; so far it has 39 members.