Increased Truck Loads Could Mean More Dangerous Roads for Motorists

Commercial haulers and trucking companies are pushing Congress to extend a pilot program currently authorizing trucks to haul heavier cargos than federal law allows.

Presently, the pilot program authorizes trucks and commercial vehicles operating on federal highways in both Maine and Vermont to carry loads up to 100,000 pounds - 25 percent more than the current 80,000 pound limit under federal law.

Support to Increase Cargo Limits

The commercial trucking industry and legislatures are pushing to make this soon-to-expire program permanent. Supporters claim that authorizing trucks to haul heavier loads will save money on fuel and labor costs as well as decrease the number of hauling trips. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (which represents many truck drivers) says that increasing the federal cargo limit by 25 percent would allow haulers to use four trucks instead of five to haul the same amount of goods.

Advocates further argue that trucks lugging heavier freight are likely to stay away from narrower local or state roads that route through communities.

Opposition to Increase Truck Weight Loads

Opponents of the weight increase say that it is a bad idea to allow commercial trucks to haul extremely heavy loads.

By authorizing tractor trailers to carry large amounts of cargo simply make roads more dangerous for drivers traveling alongside these heavy vehicles. Heavier truck loads can make it more difficult for truck drivers to handle and maneuver their trucks, leading to a potential for increased truck and car accidents.

Opponents also believe the change would affect freight-rail businesses. According to a recent study, if truckers were allowed to increase their cargo load to 97,000, short-line railways would see a 17 percent drop in business.

Further, roads and bridges will need more maintenance due to the increased wear and tear on the roadways. Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, says that the nation is already facing infrastructure problems so this idea is simply unbelievable.

"Lifting the weight limit when the nation's infrastructure is in disrepair would be akin to loosening airplane-safety standards after a spate of airline crashes," she says.

Along with federal lobbying efforts, the commercial trucking industry is also pushing states to increase weight limits on state-regulated roads.