Congress Mulls Over Increasing Truck Weight Limits

by TJ on March 10, 2011

Used Semi Trailers is the number one web resource for buying and selling used trailers and trucking equipment.

Today, we post on the proposals to increase truck weights on the highways:

A pilot program has been in operation in Vermont and Maine, where maximum permissible truck weights have been raised to as high as 120,000 pounds. That contrasts with the 80,000 pound weight limit which is imposed nationwide by federal rules.

The argument for increasing maximum truck laden weight has revolved around the improvements made in technology since the original weight limits were imposed (over 20 years ago) and by the increased logistical efficiencies and benefits which could be obtained.

Congress is currently considering a proposal to raise the federal weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. That’s an increase of 21%, but the increase has got some people worried.

OOIDA, the leading Owner-Operator drivers’ association in the country, opposes the proposals. They believe that increasing weight limits is going to have an adverse impact on road safety and will also lead to a loss in trucking jobs. The greater the load which can be carried by one driver means that someone, somewhere loses out on truck driving work.

OOIDA is also not convinced by the safety arguments either. They have a serious point: heavier truck loads are more difficult to control, especially when a driver control situation occurs and starts to deteriorate into an incident which the driver cannot recover from. Many accidents occur not because of a single factor but a combination of errors, not anywhere near being always the fault of the truck driver, but the cumulative effect of errors becomes irreversible and disaster strikes. A collision with an 80,000 pound tractor trailer unit is bad enough, but when the load weight s increased so is the damage capability.  Some may argue however, that there is not much difference for cars which collide with an 80,000 pound trailer and a heavier truck though – it’s like the difference between falling from 80,000 feet and 97,000 feet. Either way, it’s going to be a bad day.

Another factor against increasing load weights is the impact on the road infrastructure itself. Many of our highways are in desperate need of repair and maintenance, and this includes bridges and associated infrastructure. Increasing truck weight means that it is going to cause more damage to the already vulnerable roads. A countering viewpoint is that demand for road freight haulage is predicted to dramatically increase over the next 15 years, and it has to be hauled somehow with moving freight onto the railroads is not going to be a universal solution.

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