Ohio pursues heavier trucks to aid exports

| 8/20/2010

In an effort to boost exports, officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation have proposed allowing certain large trucks to haul heavier loads.

State transportation officials want to permit trucks with sealed containers headed out of the country to weigh up to 94,000 pounds – a nearly 20 percent increase from the 80,000-pound limit for other tractor trailers. Only intrastate operations using select state highways would be affected.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, is critical of the proposal.

“The federal highway system was designed with 80,000-pound weight limits in mind. Boosting the limits above that would conflict with what’s allowable under federal law,” Spencer said. “They aren’t talking about putting these loads on interstates, which are better roadways. They want to use roads that were never designed for hauling these heavier loads.”

Containers would be required to depart from intermodal facilities, where they would be loaded onto cargo planes, trains or boats.

Supporters say the change would significantly boost the shipping of corn and soybean exports. However, any product could be loaded onto the containers.

Despite a 2009 study by ODOT that showed freight movement causes $144 million in bridge and pavement damage to Ohio highways each year, transportation officials say they don’t anticipate the heavier loads to dramatically increase the cost of maintaining roads.

Spencer said advocates for the heavier trucks are turning a blind eye to the fact that significant damage would be done to roads.

“It’s curious that supporters only speak of the economic benefits while totally ignoring the cost for increased highway damage that will be borne by others, principally the truckers who are unlikely to see any benefit to hauling these loads,” he said.

Advocates for the heavier trucks would like to have the rule implemented by state lawmakers in time for the fall harvest.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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