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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Unintended Impacts of Increased Truck Loads on Pavement Supply-chain Emissions


In recent years, the reduction of freight truck trips has been a common policy goal. To this end, policies aimed at influencing load consolidation, load factors and increasing maximum truck weight limits have been suggested and implemented, resulting in higher gross vehicle weights. The purpose of such policies has generally been to mitigate congestion and environmental impacts. However, trucks cause most of the damage incurred by highways pavements. The supply chain associated with pavement maintenance and construction releases significant air emissions, raising the question of whether increased vehicle weights may cause unintended environmental consequences. This paper presents case examples with estimated emissions resulting from shifts in load consolidation and increased maximum weight. These examples indicate that increased load factors in local and long-distance freight movement can cause significant increases in emissions of certain pollutants. Emissions associated with pavement construction are also found to increase as a result of pavement design specifications that account for heavier trucks.

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