If a new proposal is approved by Congress, the trucking industry may see major changes in the way large trucks operate on federal highways.
Raising Weight Limits
A story by Clarissa Hawes in the online trade magazine Trucks.com has outlined a proposed 15-year pilot program sponsored by several shippers and agricultural groups that would allow semi-trucks to raise their weight limits from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds.
According to Hawes, the 80,000-pound weight limit on federal highways was instituted in 1956, although some states have exemptions and permits that allow trucks to carry heavier loads. The proposal also suggests new features for the trucks, including adding an additional axle.
Proposal Means Higher Profits, More Safety
The argument from the group of shippers is simple: More weight will mean fewer trucks and fewer runs. In addition, fewer trucks will also equal less pollution in the air, and ultimately save the industry a significant amount of money. James Sembrot of Anheuser-Busch stated the move could potentially save the industry $5.6 billion a year.
In addition, Sembrot said, having fewer trucks would contribute to driver safety. With less crowded loading docks, driver wait-times would not be as long, and this could help them stay in compliance with the maximum 14-hour workday, 11 of which hours may be spent driving.
Mike Steenhook, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, is also in favor, suggesting that this is a solid solution for an industry that is producing more soy. He also pointed to potential safety features that may be proved in the 15-year pilot program, suggesting that stopping distance is a foot less with an extra axle, and that fewer trucks on the road mean fewer collisions.
The proposal itself, if accepted, would be voluntary. The pilot program would allow up to 10 states to take part, in order to collect data and see if the extra axle proves safer than the current configuration.
However, the proposal has not been without opposition. Several owner-operator groups, as well as safety groups, believe the change in practice may be dangerous and irresponsible.
Opponents of the proposal, including Norita Taylor of the Owner-Operators’ Association and John Lannen of the Truck Safety Coalition, have raised several objections.
Among them is the issue of pay. They question whether independent truckers would be paid more for the increase in weight they haul. And if the program proves to be unsafe, it may not be worth the risks to the 10 pilot states.
Another argument, espoused by the Association of American Railroads, among others, is the potential damage to infrastructure, and the costs to taxpayers. Heavier weight limits, they argue, will tear up the interstate system, including bridges and roadways, when potentially there are other options.
Which Side is Right?
There is no consensus on the proposal at this stage. Each side has valid points, but the arguments take on political weight when they reach Congress, and the industry opinions are influenced by self-interests: more weight means more money for shippers, while more weight and different trucks could cost owner-operators more money, and take business away from other transport industries, including railroads. Consequently, the true value of the project is uncertain at this point.
What is a fact, though, is that fatal truck crashes increased eight percent from 2014 to 2015, and the safety of Americans should be the first priority.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a commercial truck accident in Texas, contact Guajardo & Marks today. With more than 50 years of legal experience between them, the partners of Guajardo & Marks of Dallas have the knowledge and resources to help with your legal needs. If you have questions or wish to set up an appointment, contact us online or call us at 972.774.9800.