“We know there are diverse views.”
So said Jeffrey Paniati, executive director of the Federal Highway Administration, as he opened the first public session of the agency’s comprehensive size and weight study, and he was 100% correct.
The 4-hour session Wednesday at DOT headquarters was attended by some 400 in person and online, and covered a broad range of questions and elicited strong suggestions and familiar contentions.
The agency’s intention at this point is to get suggestions on what should be in the study and how best to carry it out.
“We will not form policy but will summarize the data for Congress,” Paniati said. “We will consider everything from lives to livelihoods.”
The session covered truck configurations, safety, compliance, the impact of heavy trucks on pavement and bridges, and the possible shift of distribution patterns within trucking and between trucking and the railroads.
The agency already plans to study three configurations: the current 5-axle, 80,000-pound standard; a 5-axle, 88,000-pound combination; and a 6-axle, 97,000-pound combination.
It is looking for help choosing an additional three configurations, possibly including twin 33-foot trailers, Rocky Mountain Doubles, Turnpike Doubles and triples.
Of these, 33-foot twins and triples attracted the most attention from the audience, but other suggestions came in as well, including the 53-foot step-deck “possum belly” van.
The agency does not intend to tell Congress what to do about configurations, said Caitlin Rayman, director of the FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations.
“We are not trying to design the perfect truck.”
A number of truck drivers were on hand, urging the agency to include the insights and knowledge of those who must live day-to-day with size and weight requirements.
Look at the impact of worn roads on equipment, maintenance and fuel costs, suggested Scott Grenerth, an independent driver associated with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
Tilden Curl, also associated with OOIDA, said that a change in standards would create a competitive imbalance between large and small carriers.
He would have to change out his entire fleet to adapt to new equipment, while larger carriers could focus on just a portion of theirs, he said.
Look for more details with continuing coverage on Thursday.