With input costs up across the board, farmers are looking for any way to cut their spending in order to stay out of the red. It’s a concern the Georgia Farm Bureau legislative team is well aware of, as they recently helped push a new bill, which increases the maximum weight of trucks hauling agricultural goods, through both the House and Senate.
“You know, this is going to benefit and impact a farmer’s bottom line at the end of the day. If they can carry more weight per truck, more weight per trip, that’s less trips that they have to take to get the same amount of goods from A to B,” says Jake Matthews, Government Affairs Specialists for GFB. “That’s a direct benefit to a farmer’s bottom line really, and with transportation costs being so high these days, this is really going to make an impact on that and help out in that sense.”
Not only will it be advantageous to their budget, but it also gives the farmer a little piece of mind knowing it can help protect them against future disasters.
“Timeliness in getting a crop up and out of the field is really important these days. You know, when you have a severe weather event coming through, the ability to get your crop harvested and out of the field in a timely manner is really important. If severe rain is coming; a bad hurricane or storm, being able to carry more weight is going to allow you to get your crop out more quickly, more efficiently, and hopefully be able to minimize some of the effects of a severe weather event like that,” says Matthews.
The bill’s passing didn’t come without some opposition citing both road safety and degradation concerns. However, being just a four-thousand-pound increase, it should have minimal impact and could actually be a benefit in the long run.
“We’re really not talking about a ton of weight there, but we are talking about over the course of a year, that little bit of added weight is going to have major implications for the farmer, for folks hauling forest products.” says Matthews. “When you spread that out across the year, that starts to add up on the trips and the savings benefits. At the end of the day, you’re going to take a lot of trucks off the road, because it takes less trucks to haul the same amount of products now, and less trucks on the road has a number of benefits from a safety benefit to just traffic congestion and that sort of thing.”
This bill also puts Georgia famers on an even playing field with surrounding states as a majority of those have already adopted similar legislation.
“Most other states are at least eighty-eight thousand pounds or above, in some cases ninety thousand pounds, and it varies state to state on if that’s blanket across the board for all commercial trucks or if that’s just for ag and timber products,” says Matthews. “Even though it varies state to state, the overwhelming majority allow at least eighty-eight thousand pounds for a five-axle truck when hauling some sort of agricultural commodity.”
While plenty of time and hard work went into getting this bill through legislation, it will only serve as a place holder, with the long-term solution still down the road.
“The bill does sunset after two years,” says Matthews. “That sunset was put in place to kind of get us forward with the higher weight, put us on a an even playing field with the other states, but then allow us to come back and take another look at it and see what’s working and what’s not as we go forward. We think we’re going to be able to address it here in the upcoming years and get something more permanent in place.”
By: Damon Jones