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SDSA Submits Letters of Support for Safe Trucking Act

Oct 02, 2015

SDSA sent the following letter to South Dakota’s Congressional Delegation

On behalf of South Dakota Soybean Association, we write to request your support for legislation, introduced by Congressman Reid Ribble, which will result in enhanced motorist safety, diminished wear and tear on our nation’s roads, reduced carbon emissions, and greater efficiency of transporting soybeans, grain, and other freight.

The “Safe, Flexible, and Efficient Trucking Act” (Safe Trucking Act) will provide each state the option to allow semis to weigh up to 91,000 lbs. – provided the addition of a sixth axle (22 wheels total) – to operate on the Interstate Highway System within the state. The current federal weight limit on interstates is 80,000 lbs. – most frequently transported via a five axle (18 wheels total) configuration. While the truck configuration proposed by the Safe Trucking Act will permit more freight to be transported per semi, the size and length of the truck will not increase. A semi will simply be allowed to utilize a higher percentage of its available capacity.

American farmers and grain handlers depend upon our nation’s system of roads and bridges to efficiently deliver products to the local country elevator, processor, or export terminal. Having a safe, well-maintained, and efficient system is essential to the profitability of farmers and agriculture.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the volume of freight demand by all modes of transportation – truck, rail, maritime, and air – is expected to increase from 18.5 billion tons in 2010 to more than 27.5 billion tons in 2040. Demand for trucking is expected to increase from 12.5 billion tons in 2010 to 18.5 billion in 2040 – a 50 percent increase.

While demand for trucking continues to increase, trucking capacity has been challenged by insufficient investment in road and bridge capacity, a widespread and persistent shortage of truck drivers, and recent declines in rail service that have required trucks to accommodate more freight.

The question confronting elected leaders and stakeholders is how to accommodate our nation’s significant growth in demand for trucking without compromising safety nor damaging our roads.

Recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the soybean checkoff, and others have examined the impact of increasing semi weight limits on the interstate system on: 1.) Motorist safety; 2.) Infrastructure wear and tear; 3.) Carbon emissions and fuel consumption; and 4.) Potential cost savings and efficiency gains for agriculture and the U.S. economy.

Research highlights that adding an additional sixth axle to a semi weighing 91,000 lbs. will create additional braking capacity so that stopping distances will be one foot less than a five axle, 80,000 lbs. truck.

Moreover, allowing six axle, 91,000 lbs. semis will result in fewer semis on the road compared to maintaining an 80,000 lbs. weight limit, which will result in fewer motorist accidents and injuries. Research validates that motorist safety is strongly a function of the number of semis over a given stretch of road. Allowing six axle, 91,000 lbs. semis will result in a decrease in truck density – resulting in an increase in motorist safety.

A six axle, 91,000 lbs. semi will result in a reduction of weight per tire of 308 lbs. compared to a five axle, 80,000 lbs. semi – reducing wear and tear on the nation’s roads. In addition, a six axle, 91,000 lbs. configuration is compliant with the Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Bridge Formula – meaning that such trucks will meet weight distribution requirements for bridges on the Interstate Highway System.

Trucking and rail are increasingly not interchangeable modes of transportation. This is particularly the case with agriculture. Over the past several decades, railroads have adopted a business model of emphasizing long haul service, which has resulted in limiting access to the rail network in rural areas. Years ago, every soybean and grain handler enjoyed rail service at their facility. That is no longer the case. As a result, farmers and grain handlers must increasingly utilize trucking to access the rail network. Given how trucking and rail are less interchangeable, the potential modal shift from rail to trucking due to the adoption of 91,000 lbs. semis is significantly limited. The U.S. Department of Transportation calculated that the potential modal shift nationwide would amount to less than one third of one percent of railroad revenues. This minimal modal shift would be even less for agricultural shipments.

For transporting soybeans and soy products, allowing six axle, 91,000 lbs. semis will result in fewer truck trips, fewer gallons of fuel consumed, fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and reduced fuel costs. The use of a six axle, 91,000 lbs. semi will enable a farmer to transport an additional 137 bushels of soybeans per load.

As Congress determines a strategy for how to improve our surface transportation system, we urge you to support this proposal that we believe will enhance safety and efficiency on our nation’s roads and bridges.

If you or your staff have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further, please contact me at 605.216.4852 or

Thank you for your consideration.


John Horter, President
South Dakota Soybean Association