Lawmakers in North Dakota have backed a plan for roadtrains to become legal.
Earlier in the month the House Transportation Committee voted 10-4 to advance a measure that encourages Congress to increase federal truck size and weight standards to benefit a roadtrain pilot program it first mooted in 2019.
The nonbinding effort covers state highways and interstates 94 and 29 that are part of the National Network in North Dakota and surrounding states including South Dakota and Minnesota.
Legislators in North Dakota have two pieces of legislation currently in front of them. One would give the Governor the authority to waive weight and length requirements on North Dakota roads while the other prompts action from US Congress requiring it make regional amendments to these restrictions allowing for the roadtrain pilot program to run on federally managed interstate highways.
It comes despite opposition from lobbying groups and railroads some of whom have instigated a campaign of alarmism around safety in the community.
The potential damage incurred on already depleted infrastructure forms part of the objection given funding allocations for upkeep of bridges and roads is not included in the legislation.
Fargo attorney Nathan Severson has raised concern the harsh winter conditions in North Dakota brings with it a substantial risk for other road users and truck drivers.
North Dakota Motor Carriers Association lobbyist, Matt Gardner told legislators that the consistent demands on truck movements, however, made it crucial to pursue alternative ways to move freight on road.
“The reality is we need to be able to move more freight with less people,” he said.
In Australia roadtrains have operated in remote and regional areas successfully for decades hauling loads that dwarf the legal maximum length and weight permitted in North Dakota.
More recently in New South Wales Higher Productivity Vehicles were permitted to carry an extra 22 per cent of supermarket goods on every trip by Transport for NSW.
This has opened up the Hume Highway as a regular high volume transit route for Performance-Based Standards approved B-triple combinations like those currently in operation by Ron Finemore Transport, GTS Freight and Linfox.
The maximum weight for these High Productivity Vehicles has increased from 68.5 tonnes to 79 tonnes which will reduce one truck movement for every six made.
Under the House concurrent resolution put forth in North Dakota roadtrains are defined as “a trucking vehicle consisting of two or more connected trailers or semi-trailers linked and hauled by a single operating prime mover or tractor which may exceed overall length and total gross vehicle weight limitations, but not exceed current statutory axle load limitations.”
North Dakota Department of Transportation Wayde Swenson noted, as part of neutral testimony he provided on the Senate bill, the legislation threatened to put the state out of step with federal regulations on Class 8 heavy vehicles.
Once passed out of the House Transportation committee, the resolution to Congress, HCR 3001, has been sent to the chamber floor, moving the state a step closer to participating in a pilot program that would allow trucks to add more trailers to carry more products more efficiently amid a nationwide shortage of truck drivers.
The second bill, SB 2026, does not provide details on size and weight limits that would be pursued.
It is now under consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.