• Aug 18, 2010
This fall, Congress will consider modifying 36-year old regulation that would increase the weight limit for trucks on interstate highways by 8.5 tons. According to The Wall Street Journal, the increase from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds is being pushed by a coalition of over 150 companies that move products around the country and across the nation's roads. The official rationale for the change is to cut fuel consumption and emissions, as the current legislation requires trucks carrying heavier, denser products to run only partially full to avoid exceeding the limits. The obvious rationale is with fewer trucks running with heavier loads, overall fuel consumption would be cut.

However, there are a number of downsides to what looks like a "green" change. Heavier trucks do disproportionately more damage to roads and bridges and also pose greater safety risks, including taking longer to stop and being more susceptible to instability.

Given the poor state of many of the bridges in the U.S., is it worthwhile to save some fuel and CO2 at the risk of accidents like the Minneapolis bridge collapse a few years ago? Have your say in 'Comments.'


[Source: The Wall Street Journal via Chicago Breaking Business | Image: Corbis]


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  • 59 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      As a SoCal resident, I see no good coming from this. Many of the roads I drive on are already completely torn up thanks to loaded trucks and it seems like every week there's at least one major accident on the freeway, most of them involving a semi truck jack-knifing or flipping over. Improve the roads (and keep them maintenanced) and lower the rate of accidents involving semis and I'll approve of this idea. Which is to say, I never will.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Congress could raise the weight limit to a million tons, but it won't make a difference if the states wont allow it.

      I believe increasing the weight limit would be great if they can distribute the weight across the road surface. Either by more tires or bigger tires would work.

      Each state has their own rule for trucks. Some states allow their trucks to pull three trailers (I didn't believe it until I saw it myself).
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't get how checking out the oil change app on the iPhone has anything to do with "trucks getting bigger".
        • 4 Years Ago
        Why did my "reply" comment become the main comment?
      • 4 Years Ago
      If the load is too heavy they need to ship it by rail. Period.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with you but it isn't always that easy. Railroads are trying to expand their infrastructure, but there is a NIMBY effect with these efforts too because they require big railyards near metro areas.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sam:

      The proposed new limits of 97,000 lbs would only apply if the semi trailer had third axle. By doing this your load per tire would decrease to 4,409 lbs over each tire at 97,000 lbs vs 4,444 lbs at 80,000 lbs. This is what the road is actually feeling. You would also have the benefit of an additional set of brakes.

      Its estimated by the American Trucking Association that trucking tonnage will increase by 30% by 2021. (10.5 years) By increasing the load limits on triple axle trailers it would help reduce the number of trucks on the road.

      In the end this would only permit individual state DOTs to raise the limits on the interstate.

      • 4 Years Ago
      The infrastructure can't really play into this argument - more trucks also cause more wear than fewer trucks. And beyond that, the infrastructure needs to be replaced - regardless of what decision is made regarding the level of weight trucks are allowed to carry.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is why you can't take government seriously. Is this really a "green" proposal? I think not. All this trucking needs to go back to the rails if government is serious about a reduction on foreign oil.

      But of course they talk from both ends....constantly.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great. Now these behemoths will be moving slow as SUV soccer moms on the way to the mall from "working that job that they hate, for that "stuff" they don't need".
        • 4 Years Ago
        They need to slow down. An eighteen wheeler going 80+ mph is a huge danger, does increased damage and for sure uses more fuel. Increase the weight limit, and govern the speed. Problem solved.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am not seeing the issue here. The wear and tear on roads/bridges could actually be less. As having a single truck that weighs a little more would be less wear and tear on a road than two trucks weighing a bit less.

      Then lets look at technological changes over the last 36 years. Trucks have significantly more power, and far better brakes.

      Plus, many states allow loading trucks up over 100k pounds, they just can't go on interstates.

      And I would be willing to bet that a truck hauling 80k pounds will do just as much damage to a car as it will with 97k pounds. And I would bet the stopping difference is not that much different.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You don't get how it works. Heavier trucks do disproportionate damage to bridges and roadway surfaces. In other words, one 50 ton truck does more than 2x the damage as one 25 ton truck. We'd be better off with MORE lighter trucks than fewer heavier trucks. Or just shipping more stuff by rail.

        Regardless, we need to raise the gas tax to really fix our infrastructure. What should have happened last year with the stimulus would've included a 1 or 2 cent/year increase in the Federal gas tax with the funds used to replace all old bridges and fund infrastructure improvements, including rail and transit. We missed a huge opportunity to create a sustaining jobs and economic program with our one-time, deficit-based, tax-cut stimulus.
      • 4 Years Ago
      My biggest concern with this is that about 20% of trucks out there are already running overweight. I'd only allow greater weights if enforcement gets stepped up. I wouldn't want us to have 20% of trucks exceeding the new limit several years down the road.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Believe me, with all the states being broke, and big truck tickets being big bucks............. enforcement is at an alltime high.

        As a matter of fact, in some areas, big trucks are the ONLY thing being pulled over, no matter what the cars do.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There would be alot less rear endings, by big trucks, if people didn't drive like morons around them.

      You know, things like cutting them off, then slamming on the brakes to make it into McDonalds.

      If people in the country drove better, there wouldn't be as many big truck accidents.

      Also, when is a big truck most likely to get into an accident?? When it is empty. All the systems work at their most efficient when the truck is fully loaded. An empty trailer is hard to control in an emergency.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Congress needs to outlaw retreads before they should even think
      about this. I'm sick of seeing big chunks of rubber all over the
      highway. This is a serious safety hazard to all motorists.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Rethreads aren't the primary problem.
        Look at the big chunks of rubber on the road & you will notice that the belts and more than just the thread are visable. It isn't the retreadcoming off the tire. You may make some argument that if you run the tire long enough then eventually the tire will fail & retreads are extending the tire life 2-3 thread lives. However, there is something else going on. On your standard dual setup, if one tire is at lower pressure then it has a slightly smaller radius and wants to move a little shorter distance every revolution, but it can't so it creates slippage. Low pressure in one of the tires on a dual causes almost all of the road scap, from puncture, poor maintainance, bad valve, whatever, not from retreads.
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