Is Bigger Better?

Battle lines drawn over truck size – by Jill Dunn

The battle over whether federal laws should expand truck weights and lengths or keep the present limitations is heating up.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters and safety groups support the current limit of 80,000 pounds and 53-foot limits for tractor-trailer trucks on interstate highways of the National Highway System.

The NHS covers about 160,000 miles of highway, while interstates represent 44,000 miles
The American Trucking Associations, National Private Truck Council and some shipping organizations favor expanding these limits. They support the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009 or H.R. 1799. It was introduced by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) March 30 and was referred to a House subcommittee with 12 co-sponsors.

That legislation would allow trucks a maximum gross weight of 97,000 pounds, provided the vehicle has at least six axles, including a tridem axle group with a weight limit of 51,000 pounds. Axle weight increases of up to 2,000 pounds would be authorized at the state’s option.

The heavier weight limit would be allowed only if approved by a state legislature.
The bill would increase the annual Heavy Vehicle Use Tax for vehicles qualifying under the bill to a maximum of $800. Funds generated by the increase would be dedicated to pay for bridge projects in states allowing the operation of the heavier vehicles.

The bill would require data on safety and infrastructure impacts resulting from the operation of the vehicles to be reported to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, who would have the authority to terminate the operation of the heavier trucks on routes where safety problems were detected.

The American Trucking Associations say this would allow truckers to deliver more freight while making fewer trips, resulting in benefits including less fuel use and pollution.

The NPTC commissioned the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to study the issue. That research indicated significant improvements would be won in fuel consumption, cost, congestion, distribution efficiency and driver availability.

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This would be achieved by increasing the gross vehicle weight up to 97,000 pounds on a six-axle tractor-trailer from its current 80,000-pound maximum and adding cubic capacity through the use of LCVs – specifically, two 53-foot trailers, or “turnpike doubles.”

Conversely, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced legislation, The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, or S. 779 and H.R. 1618 on March 19. This would extend the current limit of 80,000 pounds and maximum trailer length of 53 feet for tractor-trailer trucks on interstate highways to the National Highway System by freezing the limits in place in states as of June 1, 2008.

The United States faces an upcoming huge gap between the amount of freight to be hauled and what can be hauled given current constraints, and longer combination vehicles could help this challenge, a top executive of Volvo Trucks North America said May 8.

Scott Kress, a senior vice president, said the trucking industry estimates total U.S. freight tonnage will increase 26 percent from 2006-2020, requiring a similar increase in available trucks to meet the challenge.

This would burn more fuel, increase carbon dioxide emissions, exacerbate congestion and increase accident risk exposure, Kress said.

“Perhaps the best strategy is the ability to use longer combination vehicles,” Kress said, arguing that LCVs could reduce congestion, emissions, fuel consumption, transportation costs and foreign energy dependence. Infrastructure improvements would be needed, but would be modest compared to what would otherwise be needed, he said.

On May 4, safety advocates launched the grassroots campaign to ask Congress to reject size and weight increases for trucks.

They noted a new national poll by Lake Research Partners, which indicated eight out of ten Americans believe bigger trucks will decrease highway safety.

Truck OEMs Oppose Each Other Over SCR -By Staff Reporter

Volvo and Mack say they filed opposing court documents June 1 in response to Navistar Inc.’s federal appeals court challenge over selective catalytic reduction.

Navistar filed March 31 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Feb. 18 certification requirements for heavy-duty engines using SCR.

Mack and Volvo spokesmen said their filings are “opposing Navistar’s position and [in support of] allowing the use of SCR technology to meet the EPA 2010 emissions requirements.”
A Cummins spokesperson said she had no comment, while Daimler Trucks North America and Paccar Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Navistar plans to use exhaust gas recirculation and EPA emissions credits to meet 2010 emissions standards. All other producers of 2010 heavy-duty engines will use SCR.

On May 4, Navistar submitted an issues statement to the court over whether the EPA can adopt the 2009 SCR guidance without a rulemaking proceeding.

The truck maker noted EPA’s 2001 rule established a 0.2-gram nitrogen oxides (NOx) standard for 100 percent of trucks sold with model year 2010. It also found SCR not to be a feasible technology to meet the standard for several reasons. Navistar posed 10 issues for the court’s review, each challenging EPA’s actions regarding SCR as arbitrary and capricious, as violating the Clean Air Act or both.

Navistar spokesman Roy Wiley declined additional comment, other than to say, “We are ready for 2010 with our EGR strategy.”

Navistar charges that the 2009 SCR guidance relaxes the 0.2 gram standard and approves a control technology that EPA in 2001 concluded would not allow the standard to be met on a fleetwide basis. The truck maker also alleges the 2009 guidance imposes entirely new regulatory requirements and allows diesel engine manufacturers to release uncontrolled NOx emissions on the highway, create highway safety hazards and certify engines to an emission standard that the engines will exceed. In the statement of issues, Navistar also contends, among other things, that the 2009 SCR guidance:
·Improperly amends the 2001 rule establishing the 0.2-gram NOx standard
·Reverses the 2001 “infeasibility” finding in a way that requires another rulemaking;
·Approves a control technology that causes or contributes to an unreasonable risk to public health, welfare or safety;
·Authorizes operation of diesel engines with their emission control devices bypassed, defeated or rendered inoperative; and
·Ignores EPA’s own “not-to-exceed” emissions standards.

The Feb. 18 document provides guidance to manufacturers on various issues surrounding SCR, including the size of the diesel exhaust fluid tank, the performance of DEF in freezing conditions and the various actions to compel drivers to replenish DEF.

Though Navistar’s brief statement of issues does not provide detail regarding why it believes the 2009 guidance changes the 2001 rule, its challenge appears to rest on the notion that EPA is allowing SCR-equipped trucks to be operated for a number of miles or hours – albeit at significantly reduced torque – without DEF, with poor-quality DEF or with a partially inoperable SCR system.

Under an April 3 order from the court, further briefing in the case is deferred until further notice.

New Border Crossing Rule Begins – by Staff Reporter

U.S. border officials reported no significant crossing problems on checkpoints on the Canadian border June 1, the first day travelers were required to pre