Size & Load
Automobile transporter combinations are considered “specialized equipment” and were deemed so by Congress in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982. As such they are governed by an overall length, currently 75 feet, instead of just a semi – trailer length for other combinations.
The commodity to be transported is specific and unique. The length of the haul is limited, be it from a port, plant or rail site. Carriers run empty more than 40% of their total miles. This number increases when taking into account partial loads after the first delivery. This is not a competitive issue. Approximately 70% of new vehicles have their primary move performed by the railroads.
In 2010, of the 11.6 million vehicles sold, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, vans, etc. accounted for almost 50% of total sales. These vehicles are not only larger, thus reducing load factor, but are also heavier. While auto manufacturers are attempting to take weight out of their vehicles to improve mileage performance, the reality is hybrid vehicles are hundreds of pounds heavier than their gasoline-powered counterpart. Furthermore, a diesel vehicle can weigh up to 600 pounds more. This all adds additional weight to the loaded truck.
With this heavier product, equipment cannot be utilized to its maximum capability due to current weight restrictions. This results in more trucks being dispatched to haul the extra units that couldn’t fit on another truck. In other words, there may be space available on the truck for another vehicle but current weight restrictions would be exceeded. Safety will not be compromised. Independent test results show that these fully loaded vehicles stop well within prescribed federal standards.
A survey of the largest car haulers in the country found that their average load factor decreased almost 2 full units over the last few years. The number is even greater for trucks running out of ports and rail terminals. It is estimated that the weight increase will eliminate the need for over 104,000 extra trips running an extra 23.4 million vehicle miles per year and consuming an additional 4.8 million gallons of fuel. The weight tolerance allowance will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 53,000 tons per year.
Thus there is an immediate need for increased vehicle productivity within the auto transporter segment of the industry.
The EPA mandated 2010 engines not only weigh significantly more than previous engines but are larger thus requiring more room under the hood. In order to accommodate these cleaner engines, the length of the cab has increased significantly. This in conjunction to a new cargo securement system is leading to a decrease in the number of vehicles that can be loaded on the truck. Additional length and weight will ensure that the current load factor will remain constant. Increasing rear overhang allowance by two feet – standards already in place in California , Florida and numerous other states- would provide for maximum vehicle productivity in a safe manner.