Published online: Feb 02, 2012 Potato Harvesting, Seed Potatoes, Potato Equipment
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WASHINGTON, D.C.-Several ag groups, including state potato associations, submitted the following letter to the Honorable John L. Mica, Chairman Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Honorable Nick J. Rahall, II Ranking Member Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Dear Chairman Mica and Ranking Member Rahall:

Today's economy requires increased efficiency throughout the supply chain. At a time when budgets are being trimmed, everyone is expected to do more with less. The fresh fruit and vegetable industry is no different. This is why the undersigned organizations fully support the truck weight reform provisions included in the highway reauthorization bill soon to be considered by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Similar to the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), the provisions would give states the authority to allow trucks fitted with a sixth axle to haul up to 97,000 pounds on federal interstates. The current limit of 80,000 pounds on a vehicle with five axles has been in place since 1982 and now puts U.S. growers at a disadvantage with our competitors in Mexico and Canada among others.

Truck weight reform is a common-sense and safe approach to ease the increased burden facing our surface infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that by the year 2025, the amount of freight shipped throughout the United States will increase by 87 percent compared to 2000 levels. As a result, truck traffic is growing 11 times faster than road capacity. In an industry charged with providing more fruits and vegetables to consumers across the country and world, increased efficiency and lower operating costs translates to more affordable nutrition and a healthier population.

The heavier trucks will not be larger, only filled more completely, resulting in fewer truck miles driven. For example, in Wisconsin the increased truck weight limit is estimated to result in 4,355 fewer loads of potatoes to achieve the same shipping results. Fewer loads mean fewer truck miles, fewer emissions, improved weight-per-tire distribution, and lower costs.

With the additional axle, braking and handling standards are not compromised. In fact, a 97,000 pound truck with six axles can stop in 241 feet when traveling 60 miles per hour, or only a single foot more than its 80,000 pound counterpart with five axles. Multiple government-sanctioned studies have shown that increasing truck weight-not size-has resulted in making safe roads even safer.

By doing more with fewer trucks, we can have a cleaner environment, an improved infrastructure and a stronger agricultural economy that is more competitive in the global marketplace. Most importantly, these benefits of heavier trucks with an additional axle have been clearly demonstrated while maintaining and even improving safety on our nation's roads. For all these reasons we urge you to preserve the truck weight reform language and oppose any efforts to strike or replace it with a redundant truck weight study in the highway reauthorization bill. 

We applaud your leadership on the Committee and thank you for your significant efforts to improve our nation's surface transportation infrastructure.

Sincerely, National Potato Council, Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Empire State Potato Growers, Idaho Grower Shippers Association, Idaho Potato Commission, Maine Potato Board, North Carolina Potato Association, Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, Oregon Potato Commission, Association of Virginia Potato and Vegetable Growers, Washington State Potato Commission, Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, American Mushroom Institute, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Watermelon Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers Association, California Grape & Tree Fruit League, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association