Louisiana House committee approves longer, heavier loads at ports

May 13, 2022

Keith Goble

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A bill moving through the Louisiana House is described as addressing supply chain concerns at Louisiana ports.

The House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee voted 7-3 this week to advance an amended bill to create a new tandem load permit for trucks hauling to and from shipping ports in the state. Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill by unanimous consent.

Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, says the rule change is needed to help address some problems in the trucking industry that he attributes to a truck driver shortage.

“Constituents are trying to get products and supplies, and everywhere you turn around the people they are trying to buy them from are waiting on products and supplies so they can sell them,” Smith told committee members. “One of the problems we are having is we just don’t have enough trucks to bring all of these trailers. That is what is creating the backup.”

Revised details

The bill, SB477, would allow tandem loads, or combination loads at Louisiana ports. Specifically, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development would be authorized to issue a special, biannual permit for affected loads.

Tandem loads would be allowed on 20-foot shipping containers with a single tractor. One change made to the bill in committee would set the load limit at 140,000 pounds. The Senate-approved version authorized 135,000-pound load limits.

Loads could not be more than 40,000 pounds per axle – up from 37,000 pounds per axle. Another change made in committee includes a 60,000-pound cap per tri axle spread.

Overall length could not be more than 83 feet. The bill version approved by the Senate authorized overall length up to 75 feet.

The department must approve routes for the tandem loads.

Tandem shipping containers could apply for permits to travel on designated state and U.S. routes. Interstate highways are excluded.

Improved efficiency touted

Smith said the change would improve efficiency at Louisiana ports.

“In essence, what you are doing is you are going to be moving more product in a quicker time with less traffic on the road.”

As a result, he said the rule would reduce congestion on the road, reduce road wear and tear, and reduce emissions.

Advocates say the changes are necessary to help ports in the state to stay competitive. They add that there is not enough time to wait for new truck drivers to come into the industry.

OOIDA concern about longer, heavier loads

Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, has said longer, heavier loads significantly compromise margins of safety on roadways.

The Association also challenges driver shortage claims. Instead, Pugh says trucking suffers from overcapacity – too many trucks, trailers, and drivers.

“Wages, working conditions, and rampant driver turnover are proof of this.”

The bill’s next stop is the Senate floor. If approved there, SB477 would head back to the House for approval of changes before it could move to the governor. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Louisiana.

 

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.