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)
The Louisiana Legislature gave final passage Tuesday to a bill described as a simple solution to bring overnight relief to the supply-chain bottleneck caused by a nationwide shortage of truck drivers.
Senate Bill 477, sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, cleared the House last week after much debate in a 72-28 vote that crossed party lines. Because it was amended on the House side, the bill returned to the Senate for concurrence on those changes, which it received Tuesday without opposition. It now awaits the signature of Gov. John Bel Edwards.
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 state transportation department will be responsible for issuing the annual permits, which can only be used on designated roadways. Interstate highways are excluded because they are federally regulated.
When Smith first presented his bill to the Senate Transportation Committee last month, he 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. Allowing truck drivers to haul tandem loads to and from ports would reduce the number of trucks and drivers needed to move those containers, he explained.
Officials with the Department of Transportation and Development initially opposed the bill out of concern for the damage to roadways and bridges from heavier cargo weights per vehicle axle. They acquiesced after Smith put a four-year sunset date on the new regulation.
The proposal limits tandem loads to a maximum of 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.
Presenting the bill on the House floor on behalf of Smith, Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, pointed out that one rig hauling a tandem load is less weight overall than two trucks each hauling a single load because a truck alone weighs roughly seven tons.
Ronnie Mains, owner of CRC Logistics in Kenner, testified in support of the bill at the Senate committee hearing, saying the pressure to divert cargo away from the Port of New Orleans is getting worse every day and pointed out it takes a minimum of two years to get a new driver trained and licensed in Louisiana.
“One driver, two containers,” Mains said. “That would solve the problem overnight.”
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