Costs and Benefits of Increasing Load Size for Certain Circumstances of Freight in Wisconsin

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Primary Investigators

Teresa Adams, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
2205 Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706
Ph: 608-263-3175

Bruce (Xiubin) Wang, Ph.D.
Researcher, CFIRE


Current gross vehicle weight limit of all axles is 80,000n lbs. except for non-divisible loads such as heavy machineries.  This limit especially proves to be constraining to shipments slightly higher than 80,000lbs. Following the practice in a few other states, Wisconsin has been considering the possibility of adjusting its current policy in certain situations for the divisible loads. The focus of this project is to identify and quantify the impacts in Wisconsin of increasing the gross vehicle load limit for international containers to above 80,000lbs.

Raising the gross vehicle load weight limit above the current 80,000 lbs. to container loads has economic implications. Containers to enter Wisconsin highways with a weight over 80,000 pounds currently have to be split in order to satisfy the normal 80,000 pounds weight limit, which would cause additional cost to shippers and have implications to carriers as well. On the other hand, raising the container vehicle weight limit might have impact on the high traffic congestion and the highway infrastructure as well. And a higher weight limit might bring significant additional damages to the roads and bridges. In order to assess all the pros and cons of this policy, numerous potential impact areas need to be reviewed, including safety, infrastructure, traffic operations, environmental factors, energy, modal considerations, economic performance, compliance/enforcement, and intergovernmental issues, which is obviously an overwhelming job that would take multiple years and significant funding to accomplish. This research will look into the international containers that are forced to split before entering Wisconsin along select corridor(s) of freight between Wisconsin and its neighboring states, as well as the potential use of larger containers for select commodities that have significant regional interest.


  • Make efforts to quantify issues associated with increasing load for international containers.
  • Comprehensively examine the container vehicle load limit regulations within Wisconsin and its neighboring states, making an attempt to highlight the key factors in determining the container vehicle load limit such as the major barriers and major motives.
  • Conduct case studies on select freight corridors and select commodities of local/regional interest.


  1. Review existing literature on container vehicle load limit regulations, literature on impact analysis of commercial vehicles on the highway infrastructure system, and analysis of safety and environmental impact of heavy weight commercial vehicles.
  2. Survey neighboring state DOTs about their policy and permit fees.
  3. Examine international container shipping in Wisconsin in terms of volume, mix of commodities and other characteristics in order to identify impacted industries and sectors, and routes in WI.
  4. Evaluate potential savings to shippers that currently have breakdown operations.
  5. Evaluate potential cost benefit for select commodities.
  6. Final Report

Project Information

  • Duration: 12 months
  • Dates: November 15, 2007 – November 15, 2008
  • Budget: CFIRE: $16,500; Total: $49,500
  • Modal Orientation: Highway
  • Project ID: CFIRE 01-05
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