ATLANTA -- Allowing heavier trucks on highways would help the economy and the environment, according to Georgia industry advocates, but state officials worry about safety and maintenance.
A coalition of major shippers, including Coca-Cola, Georgia-Pacific and International Paper, is lobbying state and federal officials to raise the weight limits. Since three-quarters of all freight in Georgia moves by truck and many of them max out on weight while there’s still room in the trailer, allowing more weight could reduce the number of loads, cut traffic and lessen truck emissions, they argue.
Fewer loads could also solve a driver shortage, according to Lindsey Chason, a logistics expert with Home Depot.
“We’re running out of drivers, We are running out of good drivers,” she told the State Transportation Board at an Oct. 19 committee meeting.
The coalition wants Congress to boost the limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000. To soften the impact, it agrees to add another axle, pay more tax per load and keep truck lengths where they are.
At the same time, the Southeastern Wood Producers Association wants the state legislature to boost the weight limit on state highways for their logging trucks. However, the group isn’t eager to add an axle to spread the load over more wheels.
“We don’t want another axle. That’s just four more tires to buy and something else to maintain,” said Tommy Carroll, the association’s executive director.
While lawmakers will make the ultimate decision, the Transportation Board wants data so it can give an informed recommendation. The business owners on the board are keeping an open mind.
“I’ve very sympathetic to what your concerns are,” said Rudy Bowen, the board’s chairman.
But weight is a major factor in the level of wear and tear on roads and bridges, and funding from the motor-fuel tax and federal government is decreasing what’s available for maintenance, Bowen added.