Heavier trucks? Bad idea.

There’s been a push of late to increase the legal maximum gross weight for a truck from 80,000 lbs to 97,000 lbs.

Bad idea.

The ATA is pushing is adding an additional axle to semi-trailers, which would allow heavier loads.  At first glance, this would seem to be a reasonable thing to do.  There are already several states that allow this, and I haven’t heard of any safety problems resulting from this.  My opposition is based on what’s going to happen to our highway system.  If you want to see what heavy trucks will do to highways, take a trip to Michigan.

Michigan allows the operation of what are colloquially known as “Michigan Trains”.  These are 11 axle monsters, and are allowed a maximum gross weight of up to 164,000 lbs (depending on axle configuration).  The portions of the highway system where these are allowed to operate resemble the craters of the moon.  Granted, this is an extreme example.  Michigan also has lousy weather, and lousy highway maintenance, but it still serves to illustrate the problem.

You can go here: http://www.truckingsafety.org/PDF/Guidebook/GB11th.pdf    to see Michigan weight limits (on page 33).

There is also a push to increase trailer sizes and allow LCV’s (Long Combination Vehicles).  Larger trailers and LCV’s are currently allowed in some states, on certain designated routes (mostly toll roads).  While these are a little on the scary side for automobile drivers, their safety record is actually quite good.  I believe this is largely due to the fact that the drivers of these rigs tend to be much more experienced than the industry average.

I’d personally like to see the current freeze on vehicle size maintained.  It’s already hard enough dragging a 53 foot trailer around without making it any harder by making them bigger.  It’s not a problem on an interstate highway — it’s when you have to get onto local roads for pickups and deliveries that it gets exciting.

The justification for increasing weight limits  is that it will reduce the number of trucks on the road.  Will it?  It likely will, although probably not by all that much.  Certain categories of freight (such as steel) will benefit from increased weight limits.  Most other kinds of freight would only benefit from increased vehicle size.  On average, a 53 foot trailer load of freight is somewhere around 30,000 lbs, for a gross weight of around 65,000 lbs. Most commodities are light enough that a full load won’t even closely approach the legal limit.

These changes are being fought by “The Truck Safety Coalition”.  These people really annoy me. They always trot out some victims (or families of victims) of truck wrecks to make their point.  How is that at all relevant?   Guess what?  By the DOT’s own statistics, 75-80% of all car vs. truck collisions are the fault of the car driver. You can also read my post .Watchdogs and the HOS regulations.  for some comments about these people.

Let’s leave the weight and size limits as they are.

Comments and questions welcome.

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