Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A no-brainer the ATA doesn’t get

Why should a trucker haul two loads for one paycheck – a paycheck no larger than that trucker would have received for the single load?

It seems like a simple question with a simple answer: The trucker should say no.

But that’s exactly what would happen if the ATA is successful in its push for longer, heavier trucks.

This idea is nothing more than a scheme by some of the larger carriers through the group that represents them – the ATA – to save some money and make more profit.

Frankly, they’re not the ones I’m worried about in this economy right now. I’m far more concerned about the plight of small-business truckers, both owner-operators and the small fleet owners. It’s far harder for them to afford upgrades to their equipment or to recover increased costs.

And if the big carriers do upgrade, let’s face it – to survive, most everyone will have to follow suit.

But that isn’t the only reason to oppose this.

First and foremost, there are real safety concerns about these trucks.

That’s not intended in any way to run down the truckers who drive these rigs. But those trucks have to share the road with four-wheelers who have enough trouble figuring out how to drive around a single 53-foot trailer.

I’ve watched how they react around doubles. Believe me, we don’t want the kinds of things I saw happening more often.

And then, there’s the question of what they do to the highways.

Some folks say they aren’t a problem for roads to handle. I even heard from one trucker who pointed out that if you spread the load out over enough axles, the weight per axle is less than a standard, 80,000-pound, 53-foot, 5-axle tractor-trailer.

OK, I’ll admit, that sounds like it makes sense – at least, until you consider this: Which wears more on a highway. One SUV, or 10 SUVs?

Obviously, it’s 10 SUVs. Frankly, it’s a no-brainer.

Yes, if you spread that weight out over more axles, you distribute it, and you lower the pounds per square foot.

But you’re still putting that much more net weight onto the road.

Our roads today were designed with the 80,000-pound semi in mind. And they can occasionally handle larger loads when needed – which is why we have permit processes to handle those loads.

But they’re not designed to handle that much more weight on a day-in, day-out, hour-by-hour basis. And if you add that much, it is going to wear them out faster.

At some point, we have to set some limit on the weight and size of trucks allowed on our highways. And frankly, I think the limits we have now – the ones our roads were designed for – are just fine.