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Hershey joins push to increase truck weight

Dauphin County-based The Hershey Co. is part of a national coalition of other large product companies and trade groups seeking to increase the weight of trucks on U.S. interstates as a way to ship more products with fewer trucks and less cost.

Hershey, along with Illinois-based Kraft Foods Inc., Missouri-based Anheuser Busch and about 200 other companies and trade groups want Congress to increase truck weight limit to 97,000 pounds from its current 80,000 pounds, according to the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, the Washington, D.C., group lobbying for the change.

House Bill 763 was introduced in Congress in February to make the change, but hasn’t moved forward yet because the U.S. Department of Transportation, states including Pennsylvania and safety groups have concerns about the added weight’s impact on safety, and weakening of roads and bridges, according to published reports.

PennDOT is aware of the legislation, but if such an increase was approved the state would like to see additional federal road money come with it because the reality is that the state has to repair roads and bridges to accommodate the weights, spokesman Steve Chizmar said.

Shippers want truck weight limits increased because they’re hitting the current limits without filling a truck, said Jim Runk, president of the Cumberland County-based Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, which represents trucking firms in the state. Companies would rather use that space than order another truck, he said.

“The truck doesn’t get any bigger, you just add another axle to the trailer,” Runk said.

Maine and Vermont already allow heavier trucks on their roads, but they can’t use the interstates or travel beyond state borders, he said. The heavier trucks shouldn’t do any more damage to the road because the weight is spread over an additional axle on the trailer, he said.

The association is supportive of increased weights because it helps save trucking companies money on diesel fuel, but in Pennsylvania the priority is fixing roads and bridges first, Runk said.

Jim T. Ryan

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