Lawmakers Advance Bill That Could Allow Trucks to Haul Tandem Shipping Containers

Outbound Container Ship
Getty Images

BATON ROUGE (The Center Square) — Louisiana lawmakers are considering legislation to create a special “tandem load” permit for trucks hauling shipping containers from the state’s ports in an effort to relieve issues with the supply chain.

The Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee approved Senate Bill 477, sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, without objection to allow trucks to haul two shipping containers at a time to and from the Port of New Orleans and other ports.

The restriction, coupled with a shortage of truck drivers, has caused congestion and forced officials to divert loads to other ports along the Gulf Coast, such as Houston, Texas; Savannah, Georgia; and Jacksonville, Florida, according to Ronnie Mains, owner of CRC Global Solutions who testified in favor of the bill on Thursday.

“Senate Bill 477 seeks to eliminate the problem by allowing tandem loads to go out,” Smith said. “Because of the weight of these containers, we need to allow a weight limit exception and a length exception because they’re going to be about five feet longer than what is standardly allowed in the law on the roads right now.”

Smith explained that Louisiana currently allows a maximum regular tandem load restricted to 37,000 pounds per axle and 40,000 pounds per axle for logging trucks.

The bill would create a special permit to allow the higher threshold for tandem loads hauling shipping containers on designated routes, to ensure the trucks do not violate federal restrictions for interstate highways.

“One driver, two containers,” Mains said. “That would solve the problem overnight.”

Mains contends his motivation for pursuing the legislation is to keep jobs in Louisiana, his home state, rather than diverting work to ports in neighboring states.

“The industry needs help, and if we want to hold on to these great companies that we have here. They’re going to stay here, but they’re going to produce their product and send it to the other markets,” he said. “They have to get their product out.”

Mains explained that an on-site driving school at his facility is aimed at increasing the number of drivers, but the process takes years and the industry is in dire need of more immediate relief.

Smith noted that reducing the traffic from ports would also provide benefits with reducing emissions and transport time.

“It’s about that efficiency in the shipping world,” he said. “You’re helping reduce congestion on the road” in addition to the ports.

Eric Kalivoda, deputy secretary for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), expressed concerns about the potential impact on the state’s roadways.

“We just keep ratcheting things up every year with more and more overweight permits,” he said. “Where does it stop?

“It ultimately has an impact on the infrastructure in the state, and that’s got to be paid for,” Kalivoda said.

Kalivoda said he was especially concerned about the toll 135,000-pound loads — two containers and the truck — will have on bridges, noting that current heavy load permits issued for individual circumstances require special bridge analysis.

Lawmakers on the committee noted that two trucks with full loads would be about 14,000 pounds heavier than one truck with two full loads, which means the bill would reduce wear and traffic on roadways. They also cited provisions in the legislation to allow DOTD to designate the routes before moving to send SB 477 to the full Senate for consideration.

Categories: Legal, Politics, Today’s Business News, Transportation