Project Cargo and Over-Sized Moves in Oklahoma

July 20, 2018

Proposed changes to Oklahoma transportation laws will improve shipping capabilities.  The amendments will establish designated primary routes for oversize loads, decrease the shipping impact and should bring more quality manufacturing and shipping jobs to Oklahoma.


One of the many types of cargo shipped through the Tulsa Port is something called project cargo.  Project cargo is the phrase used to characterize transportation of large, heavy, over-sized, high value or critical pieces of equipment.  These types of products are manufactured by many companies in Northeast Oklahoma and the surrounding states.  Over 17 thousand tons of project cargo have moved through the Tulsa Port in the past three years.


At times, moving this type of cargo can be challenging.  That is why the Tulsa Port staff worked closely with State transportation agencies, elected officials, as well as private industries, such as manufacturers and heavy haul companies, to identify some of the concerns and obstacles with these types of moves.  The goal was to find manageable solutions that would be beneficial to all parties.


In November, amendments to two existing Oklahoma laws will lower the costs of this type of transportation by increasing the allowable permit weight limit from 20,000 pounds per axle to 23,000 pounds per axle. Thanks to the leadership and persistence of Tulsa Port of Catoosa and Manager of Operations Brad Banks, these changes will bring Oklahoma standards for oversize loads to the same level as almost all other states in the country — and all of Oklahoma’s neighboring states.  Senate Bill 1114 and Senate Bill 1089 were authored by Senator Michael Bergstrom and Representative Terry O’Donnell.  Both elected officials along with Mr. Banks were present at the signing ceremony when Governor Fallin signed the bills into law.  The amendments will establish designated primary routes for oversize loads to travel across the state without burdening local infrastructure and without complex detours.


“This is great news for the manufacturing transportation industry in Oklahoma,” said Banks. “This is part of the state’s long-term strategic freight plan, which aims to make our transportation network more efficient and better prepared.”


“These changes will decrease the impact of the movement of oversize loads to the rest of the traveling public,” Banks said. “In addition, there are no upfront costs to this proposal and no immediate reconstruction needed.  This is about preserving routes and smart planning, not immediate infrastructure improvement.”


The new amendments will also bring other benefits to Oklahoma: Namely, the changes will spur job creation as more quality manufacturing and shipping jobs will now be interested in shipping through Oklahoma.


“These efforts lower the cost of transportation, which means Oklahoma companies have less overhead and can bid for large contracts, which will create more jobs with better pay,” he said.


A common concern is that allowing larger loads to travel through Oklahoma will hurt our roads. Banks stated that the impact from the updated laws to Oklahoma roads and bridges are so insignificant as to be considered negligible. A 2017 analysis from Oklahoma engineering firm, Cross and Associates, reported these oversize/overweight trucks make up less than 1 percent of all heavy truck traffic, even on primary freight routes. Additionally, all new bridges built in Oklahoma — and across the country — are designed to routinely carry tandem axle loads even higher than the 46,000 pounds being proposed.


“Most importantly, this does not mean all semi-trucks can or will be loaded heavier,” Banks said. “A permit and route review from ODOT/DPS will still be required. This just means we are implementing designated hi-wide corridors to shift traffic away from less resilient highways and onto ones designed to carry them regularly.”


Today, moving large manufactured items in Oklahoma is more expensive than in neighboring states, which greatly discourages businesses from transporting goods through Oklahoma. Banks said these changes help align Oklahoma’s transportation industry with the rest of the nation and capitalize on the improvements and private investments Oklahoma’s manufacturing transportation industry has made recently.


“These changes will allow shippers to utilize the investment made over the past several years into bringing our ports, roads and bridges up to national standards,” Port Authority Chairman Chip McElroy said. “We built it, and we need to use it. I’m pleased that the Tulsa Port Authority and Mr. Banks were able to lead in thiseffort, and I’m excited to see the changes go into effect so we can better the manufacturing transportation industry in Oklahoma.”


About the Tulsa Port of Catoosa

The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is a singular combination of a multi-modal shipping complex and 2,000-acre industrial park resulting in an annual economic impact of $300 million to Oklahoma. The complex hosts roughly 71 companies and employs over 3,200 Oklahomans. Located at the head of navigation for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in Northeast Oklahoma, it is one of the largest, most inland river-ports in the United States. The Tulsa Port’s unique position allows companies to move millions of tons of bulk freight by barge each year at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact of rail or truck. Just a few of the bulk freight industries utilizing the Tulsa Port include portions of fertilizer distributors, industrial gas suppliers, wheat growers and manufacturers of consumer goods. The Tulsa Port is managed and operated by the City of Tulsa–Rogers County Port Authority and provides development services through Tulsa’s Port of Catoosa’s Facilities Authority.

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