With transportation becoming a more critical issue for soybean farmers the United Soybean Board's transportation initiative invested checkoff funds in a study to look into semi tractor-trailer weight limits.
Iowa farmer Ed Ulch serves on his qualified state soybean board and the Soy Transportation Coalition. He says the goal of the study was to see whether increasing weight limits is a viable approach for expanding transportation capacity and reducing highway congestion.
"Transportation is certainly important because that is a lot of the costs associated in agriculture, not only the finished products going to market but the imput products as well," Ulch said. "We've seen costs escalate more than it seems like they should have with transportation in both directions, on material coming in for inputs, fertilizer for instance, and on our grains and other commodities going out."
The study suggests greater highway weight limits could help decrease fuel costs and increase efficiency. The STC analysis shows that adopting a 97,000 pound weight threshold will annually save 16.9 million trips; reduce miles driven by 2.7 billion; and save 221 million gallons of diesel fuel by the year 2020. Ulch says the weight change could also benefit the bottom line for U.S. soybean farmers.
"We would have some cost savings and we would have some benefit in being able to get more material moved in a day, or a week or whatever the time period is," Ulch said. "Certainly during the harvest season it would be very important because we'd just be able to get more done in a shorter period of time."
Ulch says some concern exists that increasing weight limits would also increase the number of accidents on roads. But the study shows an increase would actually help to make the roads safer. To see the entire STC study on semi weight limits visit http://soytransportation.org.