Louisiana proposes ‘overnight’ solution to trucker shortage

Legislation would allow tandem container loads at shipping ports

By: - April 15, 2022 6:00 am
With fewer truck drivers, Louisiana to allow larger loads

Louisiana lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a new tandem load permit, allowing certain trucks to haul two cargo containers at a time to and from shipping ports. (Canva image)

Louisiana is exploring a legislative solution to provide overnight relief to the supply-chain bottleneck that a nationwide shortage of truck drivers has caused.

Senate Bill 477, sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, cleared the Senate Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee without objection Thursday and will advance to the Senate floor for consideration. 

The bill would create a new “tandem load” permit, allowing certain trucks to haul two cargo containers at a time to and from shipping ports. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development would be responsible for issuing the annual permits, which could only be used on designated roadways excluding interstate highways, which are federally regulated. 

Smith said a significant portion of the supply chain pinch comes from shipping containers held up in seaports unable to move due to the shortage of truck drivers. The bill would reduce the number of trucks and drivers needed to move those containers, he explained.

“It’s going to speed up the time,” Smith said. “One truck can pull up, load two containers, and he’s gone.”

Testifying in support of the legislation was Ronnie Mains, owner of CRC Global Solutions, a trucking company headquartered in Louisiana with facilities at ports across the country. 

Mains said shipping containers are so congested at the Port of New Orleans that cargo is being diverted to other locations along the Gulf Coast, including Houston.

“We want to do more here in Louisiana. We don’t want the industry to keep loading up loads and moving them to other ports,” Mains said. 

His company has facilities at those other ports, but Mains said, as a Louisiana native, he doesn’t want to see jobs leave the state. The pressure to divert cargo away from the Port of New Orleans is getting worse every day, and the solution is not as simple as hiring new truck drivers, he added.

CRC Global Solutions has its own truck driving school, but Mains said it takes a minimum of two years to get a driver trained and licensed in Louisiana.

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

DOTD officials at the committee hearing shared concerns about adding more cargo weight to state roadways and bridges.

“We just keep ratcheting things up every year… where does it stop?” DOTD Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda told lawmakers. 

Kalivoda said he was particularly concerned with bridges, but Mains pointed out that Smith’s proposal would keep tandem loads under 40,000 pounds per axle, which DOTD already allows for logging trucks. The maximum regular load currently allowed under state law is 37,000 pounds per axle. 

One rig hauling a tandem load is less weight than two trucks each hauling a single load because the truck alone weighs roughly seven tons, Smith said.

Kalivoda said he would feel more comfortable if the permit called for triple axle rigs instead of double axles. Senators on the committee, however, were not entirely convinced by his argument and advanced the legislation without any changes.

Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, pointed out that DOTD would be able to designate the routes, and trucks wouldn’t be allowed to cross bridges not designed to hold the weight. 

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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