The Safe Routes Act (H.R. 2493)
In the U.S., weight limits on interstate highways are established by the federal government, while weight limits on other roadways are established by state or local governments. State weight limits for log trucks exceed federal interstate highway weight limits in all major timber-producing states. This disparity discourages log trucks from traveling loaded on interstate highways. Log trucks traveling on non-interstate roads have a greater risk of accidents as they encounter two-way traffic, intersections, school zones, pedestrians, and driveways. Allowing trucks transporting raw forest products (logs, pulpwood, chips, or biomass) access to the U.S. Interstate Highway System at legal state gross vehicle weight (GVW) is safer.
A 2020 study published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Forest Engineering assessed the safety benefits of allowing log trucks access to the Interstate Highway System. The results of the research show that allowing state-legal truck weights and configurations access to an interstate route for a short distance that avoids small towns, school districts, and intersections would improve safety, reduce CO2 emissions, cause less damage to rural roads, and reduce transportation costs for small logging businesses (Conrad, 2020).
Another separate study of log trucks in Georgia showed that 50% of accidents occurred in urban areas. This same study also showed that 41% of the log truck accidents occurred within five miles of an interstate (Conrad, 2018).
Findings of a nationwide study of fatal log truck crashes in the U.S. stated that the most common pre-crash event occurred when another vehicle traveled into a truck’s lane from the opposite direction (Cole, 2019).
All these studies suggest that moving log trucks to interstates would be safer.
This suggestion is supported by a pilot project in Maine where trucks are permitted to haul heavier weights. The Maine Department of Transportation statistics showed that truck accidents decreased 25%, fatalities decreased by 37%, and property damage was reduced by 11% after the pilot went into effect.
The Maine pilot is consistent with national findings that rural interstate highways are three to four times safer than secondary roads (Maine DOT, 2010).
Key Facts on the Safe Routes Act
The Safe Routes Act allows trucks transporting logs, pulpwood, wood chips, or biomass access to the safer U.S. Interstate Highway System at legal state GVW.
The Safe Routes Act provisions do not impact railroads, as the only vector to transport raw forest products from the woods to a storage or processing facility is by truck.
Fact 1Allows trucks transporting logs, pulpwood, chips or biomass access to the safer U.S. Interstate Highway System at legal state GVW.
Fact 2Limits transportation distance to 150 air miles from point of harvest to storage or processing facility on interstates which are three to four times safer than rural secondary roads.
Fact 3Provides for state legal weight tolerance in effect on the enactment date of the legislation. States cannot arbitrarily raise their weight limits after the bill is passed into law.
Fact 4Reduces pedestrian and vehicle encounters with log trucks.
Fact 5Saves fuel and reduces emissions and damage on state rural roads.
Fact 6Improves the U.S. forest industry’s global competitiveness.
FRA is working with Members of Congress to gain additional cosponsors for the Safe Routes Act (H.R. 2493) and promoting its inclusion in any transportation or infrastructure package.
Safe Routes Act Video
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