Highway changes could benefit cattle producers, environment

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Increasing load weights for trucks shipping cattle across America’s highways would not only save producers money, but also reduce their carbon footprint.

Transportation Jim Handley, Executive Vice President of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, talked about the potential impact of increasing truck weights on the beef industry in a weekly Beltway Beef interview with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The NCBA and state affiliates submitted comments on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s comprehensive truck size and weight limit study. Handley says most cattle are transported on highways and increasing the weight limits would be vital to Florida cattle producers who ship most of their animals north or west.

The increased load limit would mean fewer shipments, saving producers fuel costs and other shipping expenses and reducing the use of resources impacting the environment.

The study considers the effect of added weights on highway safety. Handley says the change would not impact safety.

Past occurrences where heavier shipments were allowed show the additional load weight didn’t translate to a heightened risk. Handley says emergency executive orders in Florida during a period of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 allowed trucks to carry up to 95,000 pounds. He notes there wasn’t an increase in safety issues during that 24-month timeframe.

According to Handley, the cattle industry is willing to make long-term changes to shipping procedures, should load limits increase. He mentions adding a sixth axel to trailers to maintain the current weight-to-axle ratio and keep the same braking power trailers currently have.

Handley pointed to the savings the heavier trucks would have for cattle producers. Calculating a shipment of cattle, he says a 1,750-mile trip could save $11 per head on a 500-pound calf.

Cattle producers are encouraged by the NCBA to contact local representatives to ask to grant states the authority to establish their weight limits on the federal highways within their given state. The increased weight load would make industry practices more efficient and help the environment with fewer shipments.

Handley said the increased weight guidelines would save feeder calf producers by sending at least 1,600 fewer truckloads over the highways per year. The change would save Florida’s producers $8.8 million yearly, in addition to the savings by cattle producers in other states.

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mi  |  January, 23, 2014 at 07:41 AM

Added weight destroys roads and drive up costs to state residents who foot the repair bill for bridges too. Add in the lost commuter time, anger, and wasted gas from vehicles and it's simply not worth the cost. This is simply another bill that needs to be tossed out. Case in point, MI wants to double our vehicle registration tax, raise gas tax etc.

Bea Elliott    
Florida  |  January, 23, 2014 at 09:34 AM

I agree! As a Florida tax-payer AND one who does NOT consume cows or any animal-flesh I would be enraged at having to pay higher road and vehicle taxes in order to lower the costs of this industry. The cost of shipping loads to another state is part of the price of this particular business - The public should not be expected to pitch-in to lower that expense. Our highways are already in need of repairs. Let's not add to their damage! And I sure don't believe that increasing the weight would make cow-transport any safer for any body. My representatives are going to hear a loud NO! on this proposal!

Ben Mattey    
MI  |  January, 23, 2014 at 09:42 AM

So Bea, if you don't have kids do you complain about taxes that go to schools as well? Just curious.

San Jacinto Co. TX  |  January, 23, 2014 at 05:18 PM

My first thought is concern for the stress this might put on the animals. That could have a negative effect on the value of the animal. If the trailers are longer, which might be so since added wheels are being considered, this could counteract the added stress factor. Stands to reason longer trucks would also distribute the added weight and resulting damage to highways. I agree that we do not need any more taxes for highway improvement. I also agree that cutting down on transport costs is desirable.

Texas  |  January, 24, 2014 at 09:54 AM

When I haul heavy loads, the more trips I make down a particular road, the worst it gets. If I can haul one heavy load out, then the road does not get torn up nearly so bad. It looks like the less loads going down your highways would be better? In most states, really heavy loads pay a huge fee to move down the road and have to have permits to do so, so I bet those loads are paying their fair share when compared to other users.

SD  |  January, 25, 2014 at 06:05 PM

We need a story with more detail of additional wheels, safety of the animals and traffic, and taxation. I'm quite certain trucking companies pay more than a 'fair share' of road taxes right now. Most likely, they are subsidizing our family cars, and recreational vehicles, so far as road repair taxes go!

Jim Hight    
OK  |  January, 27, 2014 at 05:01 PM

You should first thank every trucker for the road you drive on. The taxes you pay on a lifetimes worth of gas does not even equal to what one truck pays over a year. So go down to the truck stop, eat a steak and thank a truck driver and quit just thinking about yourself. If the truck is going to haul more than the trucker is going to want paid more and the state will want more taxes because of the extended weight. There will be zero cost savings to the business owner because this will all be passed down to the lowest level and in the end could cost more time the goverment is done adding additional fees, taxes and increased cost of equipment.

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