Melon shippers appear to be throwing their weight behind a change in truck weight restrictions in the U.S.

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (H.R. 1799), sponsored by Reps. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, and Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, would give each state in the U.S. the opportunity to raise its individual interstate weight limit to 97,000 pounds for trucks outfitted with a sixth axle.

“These six-axle trucks meet the same safety standards as lighter trucks,” the Coalition for Transportation Productivity states on its Web site.

“Allowing these trucks on interstates would make our highways safer, protect the environment and strengthen the economy.”

The weight limit has been 80,000 pounds since 1982.

A number of companies and associations pushing for higher weight limits, formed the coalition in late 2008 to push for higher limits.

The increase would make sense, since other countries, including Mexico, already are at the 97,000-pound threshold, said Allison Moore, spokeswoman for the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., one of the major produce gateways into the U.S. from Mexico.

“We have one of the lowest weight limits of any industrialized nation,” Moore said.

“There has been a push to increase limits for specific types of vehicles that can distribute the weight over a certain number of axles. People in the ag industry are supporting that. So is the logging industry.”

Shippers say a higher limit would lead to cost savings.

“I hope they do that,” said Raul Paez, president of Sandia Distributors in Nogales. “Our product is pretty heavy, so that would be a good deal for it.”

Brent Harrison, president of Nogales-based Al Harrison Co., agreed.

“To me, it’s going to give better value to the customer,” he said. “We’re paying flat rates, so regardless of whether we carry 80,000 or 100,000, we pay the same rate. We’re looking to cut our costs, and that’s part of it.”

Atomic Torosian, a partner with Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, said upping the weight restrictions would lead to a more efficient shipping process.

“I think it’s better if they’re going to allow more tonnage to go across the road,” said Torosian, whose company operates an office in Nogales.

“If we can lower our costs and get more product to the retailer, with an extra half-pallet or pallet, it makes a huge difference in lowering the cost to retailers and hopefully passing that on to the consumer.”

Not every company is banking on higher limits. Ladera Ranch, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC, for example, is taking another approach to achieve efficiency, said John McGuigan, vice president of sales and marketing.

“With us, trying to localize our growing is probably a much bigger initiative than us worrying about our freight,” he said.

“In shipping across the country, we’re a relatively small player and won’t be a big influence influencing regulations, anyway.”