Legislature studying “Road Trains” for North Dakota

Local News

They say road trains can’t be done in America, but North Dakota is trying to change that.

They’re just like a normal tractor trailer, just bigger — a whole lot bigger.

Used only in the wide-open Australian Outback, road trains can span close to 200-feet long and weigh close to half a million pounds.

But like the Outback, North Dakota too has long stretches of straight and lightly traveled roads.

That’s why Senator and former truck driver Larry Luick, along with the Agriculture and Transportation Committee, is looking at a Road Train Pilot Program — and Luick says you really won’t be able to tell much of a difference out on the road.

“Gonna be no different than meeting one of those triple axle freight haulers that you already see on the road, except they’re gonna be safer than those are, and if they are another 20 or 50 feet longer than that, I don’t know that it’s gonna make that much difference,” said Luick.

He says safety advancements among big rigs have improved drastically in the last 40 years, especially in braking technology.

If passed and signed by the governor, the pilot program would include no moving of hazardous materials like oil and the length of the trains would be far less than those used in Australia.

Luick is hoping to get Minnesota and South Dakota on board as well to create a regional pilot program.

South Dakota already allows tandem full-length trailers, but those trucks don’t enter North Dakota because it’s not practical.

“When they were hauling wheat to a flour mill here in Fairmount, they would have to unhook the second trailer just to come into North Dakota eight miles, then they’d have to go back, unhook their first trailer and take that into dump it,” said Luick.

Now if approved by the state and eventually the feds, road trains would gain access to any number of North Dakota’s tens of thousands of miles of roads, like I-94. But ultimately, those roads are controlled by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, so what do they think of the road train pilot program?

“We’ve got concerns that the infrastructure’s not built up for a road train system to come in and it depends on the roadway type and which tier roadway it is. But there are concerns of ours that this will be put in place before infrastructure needed is built up,” said Wayde Swenson, with the NDDOT.

It’s still early and plenty can change between now and when the session starts in January, a session that could give the Road Train Pilot Program a big 10-4.

The Agriculture and Transportation Committee is expected to continue the road train discussion at its next meeting on Oct. 8.

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