Auto carriers are pushing the Biden administration and lawmakers to increase truck weight limits on U.S. roads so they can haul more heavy-duty electric vehicles, a move fiercely opposed by the rail industry and safety advocates who say heavier loads are significantly more dangerous.
Even before a recent surge in electric vehicle sales, U.S. highways have been carrying heavier loads, with cars and trucks rising from an average of 3,200 pounds to 4,200 pounds in the last few weeks. four decades, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Electric vehicles, with their heavy batteries, weigh significantly more than gasoline cars. While they account for less than 1% of cars on US roads, President Joe Biden wants electric vehicles to reach half of vehicle sales by 2030, and he and his Democratic Party have invested billions in federal funds behind the goal.
Auto transporters, the pipeline of the auto industry, move thousands of cars each day from factory parking lots, ports and rail yards to dealerships, often using open, double-decker trailers. Failure to raise decades-old weight limits on US roads could delay deliveries and increase costs, putting this historic bid on zero-emission vehicles at risk, they say.
“The truth is that we will not be able to move as many electric vehicles below the current weight limit. That could mean more trucks on the road, order delays and higher costs,” said Sarah Amico, CEO of Jack Cooper, one of the bigger. automobile carriers in North America.
Single trailers are currently restricted by federal highway safety regulations dating back to 1975 to 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, including a truck and trailer that may be half the limit.
In recent months, the auto transport industry has stepped up lobbying efforts with lawmakers on key committees and officials from the Department of Transportation, Commerce and the White House National Economic Council, interviews with industry officials and officials show. the administration.
They have argued their case in face-to-face meetings, letters, and roundtable discussions. However, rivals in the freight rail industry strongly oppose the move, with safety experts warning that heavier vehicles are harder to stop, easier to roll over and result in more wear and tear on roads. and bridges.
This is the latest effort by the trucking industry to take advantage of a political situation such as the growing interest in electric vehicles to push higher weight limits, something motorists oppose, says Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
“With any incremental change comes incremental danger, and that results in more deaths,” Chase said. Traffic death rates in the US are higher than in Europe, and deaths have increased since the pandemic to almost 43,000 people a year.
CONGRESS, NOT BIDEN, WILL DECIDE
The US Department of Transportation declined to say whether it supports or opposes lifting weight limits on haul trucks, saying the final decision rests with Congress.
Congressional committees that oversee transportation said they have yet to take a position on the issue.
However, Rodney Davis, a Republican lawmaker from Illinois who sits on the House Transportation Committee and is a ranking member on the highways subcommittee, says he is working to increase weight limits.
“The auto transport industry needs a modest 5% to 10% weight variance. Otherwise, an already challenged supply chain will require more tractor-trailers on the nation’s roads to deliver the same number of finished vehicles. That’s it.” it means more miles traveled, more wear and tear on our roads, more fuel used and more emissions,” Davis said.
The American Trucking Association has called on lawmakers to increase the weight limit by 10%, to 88,000 pounds, saying the current weight limit is untenable given trends.
That extra 8,000 pounds could allow car carriers to haul the same number of electric vehicles as traditional cars: Ford’s new all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck weighs about 1,600 pounds more than its gas-powered F-150 counterpart. Similarly, the all-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge SUV weighs around 1,000 pounds more than a gasoline-powered Volvo XC40.
An industry idea is higher weights for up to 300 miles. Carriers often unload a car by then, putting them under the 80,000-pound limit.
California, which just passed a law banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035, has essentially done just that, raising weight limits for trucks moving goods in and out of its ports to ease bottlenecks in the supply chain. of supply and clean the containers of the docks of Los Angeles. and Long Beach.
Temporary permits that began in November of last year raise the weight restrictions for trucks to 88,000 pounds. The state has not investigated whether raising the weight limits helped alleviate congestion or posed a safety risk.
“The department is also not aware of collisions or other safety impacts from trucks using these permits,” said William Arnold, a spokesman for the California department of transportation.