Published online: Apr 27, 2009
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Major players in the potato industry are campaigning to have the national weight limit on trucks raised to 97,000 pounds from the 20-year standard of 80,000 pounds.

The National Potato Council, Idaho Potato Commission, Oregon Potato Commission and Colorado Potato Administrative Committee and a number of industry companies are members of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), a coalition of shippers and allied associations formed in 2008 to seek legislation to increase vehicle weight limits on federal interstate highways for six-axle tractor-trailers.

The CTP says the increased weight would improve trucking productivity, reduce fuel use and emissions and reduce vehicle miles traveled while maintaining high standards of vehicle safety.

The Washington State Potato Commission says a change in the legislation is important to Washington potato growers.
"Because we are the most distant year-around supplier of fresh potatoes to most large consumer markets, we have to depend on truck shipments as we have very limited access on rail transportation to competitively reach our customers," it says in calling for support for the change.

The commission says the maximum weight now allowed is based on 1980s industry standards of trailer length and equipment technology for safe movement of goods on the interstate system.

"With increasing agricultural input costs our potato producers need to look at any possible gain in efficiency to move our commodity across the US. In an example, if you were a typical Washington State potato grower shipping your produce to market you would ship 850 cartons of fresh potatoes at 50 lbs a carton, it says.

This is 42,500 lbs and incorporating the weight of the tractor and trailer the maximum allowable 80,000 weight of pounds could easily be reached.

"What has changed since the 80s is that new truck and 53-foot trailer incorporating a six-axle configuration has the capacity to ship additional weight safely on the interstate system," the commission says. "That means the typical potato growers could ship an additional 200 cartons or 10,000 lbs maximizing the existing space in the trailer. With better, safer tractor trailers on the roads today, that potato grower could increase capacity and capture a shipping efficiency of 19 percent."

The commission says by capturing a 19 percent shipping efficiency the industry can collectively reduce the amount of green house gas emissions, freight congestion and decrease the consumption of energy needed to move produce to market.