Skip to main content
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 10:42am

Safety, Industry Collide On Truck Weight

Updated: 3 years ago.
A proposal in Congress would allow trucks to carry heavier cargo on Interstate highways. A competing proposal would cap weight at 80,000 lbs. (Photo Dirk Ingo Franke)

A group representing Georgia truckers is staying on the sidelines of a fierce debate in Congress over truck weight limits.

Some shippers and business groups want Congress to let states allow heavier trucks on highways.

Congress is debating whether truck weight limits should be raised from 80,000 to 97,000 lbs. on Interstates.

Highway safety advocates say, heavier trucks cause more serious accidents and do more damage to highways.

But, Edward Crowell of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association sees his own pros and cons.

"Truckers actually generally make more money if they have smaller loads because, obviously, they have to do more work and they get paid each time they take a load," Crowell says. "But it's part of a larger question of how do we, as a nation, compete in the global economy."

Canada and Mexico allow heavier trucks.

Jennifer Tierney of the Truck Safety Coalition says, Georgia had more than 3,500 truck-related fatalities from 1994 to 2009 and increasing truck weight limits wouldn't reduce those numbers.

"Heavier trucks take much longer to brake," Tierney says. "They are much more prone to rollover crashes and the chances of a big truck crash resulting in a death or injury increases with each extra ton over 80,000 pounds."

The Georgia trucking group is taking a wait-and-see approach on the weight limit proposal, while other groups are not.

John Runyan of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity points to studies saying that 97,000 pound trucks can maintain the same braking, handling and weight-per-tire characteristics as those currently permitted on Interstates.

The proposal would require that the heavier trucks have a sixth axle to achieve these results.

"Trucking is at its safest point since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping records in 1975, and we need to continue that positive trend," Runyan says. "In order to drive and accommodate economic growth, we can either put more trucks on the road or allow them to safely carry more weight."

The weight proposal is one of several truck safety measures making their way through Congress.

Corrections

Corrections: 
In a previous version of this story, John Runyan's name was misspelled. Orlando Montoya may be reached at omontoya@gpb.org.

Related Articles