Last week, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced the Safe Routes Act of 2021, a bill that would allow logging trucks that meet state-determined legal requirements to travel up to 150 air miles on the Federal Interstate Highway System. Current law prohibits trucks that meet these requirements from using the federal interstate, forcing them to use state and local roads that increase the risks associated with their trips.
“When logging trucks aren’t allowed to use federal highways, they use state and local roads where they encounter school zones, crosswalks, and sharp curves. This doesn’t just extend the time it takes to get their products from point A to point B, but increases the number of accidents involving these trucks,” said Rep. Gallagher. “This bill makes a common-sense change that allows certain trucks to travel on the interstate, and in doing so, helps reduce carbon emissions, increase efficiency, and make roads safer.”
A 2018 study found that 96% of logging truck collisions occurred on city, county, or state roads, and a 2018 University of Georgia study found that 41% of logging truck collisions occurred within only 5 miles of an interstate. A recent pilot program in Maine indicated that enacting legislation like this would greatly reduce both fatal accidents and fossil fuel usage by trucks.
The University of Minnesota's Department of Forest Resources conducted to studies on how implementing this legislation would impact Central and Northeast Wisconsin. Click HERE to view conclusions from those case studies.
Of the proposed legislation, FRA President Deb Hawkinson said, "Truck transportation is the only means to move raw forest products from the woods to the mill. Railroad is simply not an option. We want this transportation to have the safest possible route, and the Safe Routes Act provides just that. Interstates are 3-4 more times safer than traveling on state and county roads. However, this option is not available to log trucks due to outdated Federal regulations. The research shows that log trucks traveling on non-interstate roads have a greater risk of accidents as they encounter two-way traffic, intersections, school zones, pedestrians, and driveways. Logging businesses and the forest products industry value the safety of their workers.”
Heidi Brock, President & CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) added: “AF&PA applauds the reintroduction of the Safe Routes Act, and Congressman Mike Gallagher’s important work on this issue. This legislation makes roads safer, ensures our supply chain is more efficient and reduces carbon emissions. The Safe Routes Act gives logging trucks the option to avoid pedestrians, school zones and intersections by allowing greater access to the Interstate Highway System. Our industry is eager to continue working to further this critical, bipartisan legislation.”
Will Telligman, Government Affairs Director of the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association, said: "The Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association applauds Congressman Gallagher’s efforts to include the Safe Routes Act in the next surface transportation bill. The Safe Routes Act is common sense legislation that would allow the forest products industry to move raw materials in a safer and more efficient manner. Allowing trucks hauling logs, pulpwood, biomass, or wood chips access to the interstate system at the same weight limits as state highways would not only help reduce truck traffic in urban areas, but also increase access to timber while reducing fuel consumption.”