Louisiana Senate approves longer, heavier loads at ports
April 22, 2022
A bill halfway through the Louisiana statehouse is described as addressing supply chain concerns. It focuses on tandem loads at Louisiana ports.
The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday, April 20, to advance a bill to create a new tandem load permit for trucks hauling to and from shipping ports in the state.
Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, said the rule change is needed to help address some problems in the trucking industry that he attributes to a truck driver shortage.
“Right now there is a supply chain problem. A lot of that is due to containers being locked up in ports, and not able to be moved efficiently,” Smith recently told the Senate Transportation Committee. “The reason they are not able to be moved efficiently right now is because we have a lack of trucks and drivers available to move those containers.”
The bill, SB477, would allow tandem loads, or combination loads. Specifically, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development would be authorized to issue a special, annual permit for affected loads.
Tandem loads would be allowed on 20-foot shipping containers with a single tractor. The load limit would be set at 135,000 pounds.
Loads could not be more than 40,000 pounds per axle – up from 37,000 pounds per axle.
Overall length could not be more than 75 feet.
The weight allowance already is allowed for logging trucks operating in the state.
The department must approve routes for the tandem loads.
Smith said the length limit exception would accommodate loads that are about 5 feet longer than currently allowed for travel.
Tandem shipping containers could apply for permits to travel on designated state and U.S. routes. Interstate highways would be excluded.
Efficiency improvements touted
Smith said the change would improve efficiency at the ports.
“It’s going to speed up the time. One truck will pull up, load two containers, and he’s gone.”
Additionally, 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 Louisiana ports stay competitive. They add that there is not enough time to wait for new truck drivers to come into the industry.
State DOT voices concern
Louisiana DOT Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda said the agency is concerned about adding more cargo weight to roads and bridges.
“We just keep ratcheting things up every year with more and more overweight permits. Where does it stop?” Kalivoda asked committee members. “It ultimately has an impact on the infrastructure in the state, and it has to be paid for.”
He added that the department would rather see permits for triple-axle combinations rather than double axles.
Committee members countered that SB477 would allow the agency to designate the routes before affected loads hit the road.
OOIDA opposes 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 tandem loads bill awaits consideration in the House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee. LL
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