Decreasing the cost of hauling timber through increased payload

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The potential for decreasing timber transportation costs in the South by increasing truck payloads was investigated using a combination of theoretical and case-study methods. A survey of transportation regulations in the South found considerable disparities between states. Attempts to model the factors which determine payload per unit of bunk area and load center of gravity location met with only moderate success, but illustrated the difficulties loggers experience in estimating gross and axle weights in the woods. A method was developed for evaluating the impact of Federal Bridge Formula axle weight constraints on the payloads of tractor-trailers with varying dimensions and axle configurations.

Analysis of scalehouse data found log truck gross weights lower on average than the legal maximum but also highly variable. Eliminating both overloading and underloading would result in an increase in average payload, reduced overweight lines, and improved public relations. Tractor-trailer tare weights were also highly variable indicating potential for increasing payload by using lightweight equipment.

Recommendations focused first on taking steps to keep GVW’s within a narrow range around the legal maximum by adopting alternative loading strategies, improving GVW estimation, and using scalehouse data as a management tool. When this goal is achieved, options for decreasing tare weight should be considered. Suggestions for future research included a study of GVW estimation accuracy using a variety of estimation techniques, and field testing of the project recommendations.