There has been a renewed effort in 2017 to add heavier tractor-trailers on American highways, and it has revealed a divide in the trucking industry.
The commercial trucking battle is pitting shippers against independent truckers. Shippers want to see heavier loads of good such as food and agricultural commodities because it increases profits. But the truckers argue that carrying more freight will lead to more wear and tear on highway infrastructure, and could lead to more severe tractor trailer accidents.
A May 26 letter to Congress signed by 80 agricultural and shipping groups, proposed a 15-year pilot program to look at increasing gross truck vehicle weights. The proposal would allow 91,000 pounds on federal interstate highways. The limit today is 80,000 with some exceptions.
Several states have grandfather laws that allow truckers to carry more than 80,000 pounds. This dates back to the establishment of federal truck load weight limits in 1956. Also, 31 states currently allow trucks over 80,000 if they have a permit or have received an exemption in limited circumstances.
The letter to Congress noted that there be a change to semi-truck trailer combination design to hold the extra weight. Rigs under the proposal would go from five axles and 18 wheels to six axles and 22 wheels. This move would supposedly increase shipping efficiency by transporting more goods with fewer trucks.
If the weight limit was increased, the argument goes, US companies could save more than $5 billion per year in logistics expenses. This move could reduce traffic congestion, as well as less loading dock congestion.
Carrying heavier loads would not have a strong effect on safety, the letter noted; they say that the stopping distance with a six axle, 22 wheel set up is almost the same as an 80,000 truck with five axles.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association counters that increasing truck weight limits would be more dangerous for all motorists. The Truck Safety Coalition also opposes increasing truck weights because of serious safety concerns as well as concerns about the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Our personal injury attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina are opposed to trucking companies being allowed to increase the weight limits on their rigs. Trucks that weigh 80,000 pounds already lead to horrific truck crashes that cause death and serious personal injury for thousands of Americans each year. Do we want to see more serious truck accidents?
Our personal injury attorneys have worked on many truck crash cases involving death and serious injury that netted the families millions in damages, but we wish fewer of these accidents happened. Thus we oppose making tractor trailers even deadlier than they are today.