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United Fresh backs new truck safety bill that could boost produce shipping capacity

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) introduced a bill Sept. 10 that would give states the option to increase truck-weight limits to 91,000 pounds for six-axle trucks traveling on federal highways.

Ribble, who introduced the bill during a morning press conference Thursday, said he hopes to add his weight limit language to the must-pass highway reauthorization bill that expires at the end of September.

The Safe, Flexible & Efficient Trucking Act would add 11,000 pounds to the current 80,000-pound maximum standard that’s been in place since 1982. The bill would allow for heavier trucks equipped with a sixth axle designed to improve weight distribution and braking capacity.

It would move more goods in a safe manner and move these trucks off county and city roads and onto the interstate system, the Wisconsin congressman said.

By relying on the 91,000-pound limit, rather than an earlier bill’s 97,000-pound limit, there would be no one-time costs for construction of interstate bridges. It increases capacity nationwide at a time when freight tonnage is expected to increase over the next decade, Ribble added.

Along with several other industry groups, the produce industry praised the new legislation that would give states the flexibility to move more perishables in an efficient manner.

Due to the current weight limits, growers are forced to ship loads of fruits and vegetables in trucks that are not full, resulting in increased costs for the industry, Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, said during today’s press conference.

This bill could reduce the cost of shipping fruits and vegetables to consumers.

“The specialty crop industry is committed to doing all we can to ensure the measure is included in the transpiration reauthorization package to be considered by the House in the next few weeks and ultimately signed into law by the president,” Guenther said.

Changing the truck weight limits will be one of the priorities for Capitol Hill visits when United Fresh members attend the Washington Public Policy Conference on Sept. 28-30, he said.