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WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives blocked a proposal put forth by shipping company interests that would allow the weight limit of semi trucks on U.S. roads to be increased from 40 tons to 48.5 tons without a permit.

Currently, the load weight limit is 80,000 lbs. A massive transportation bill was being considered by the committee, but was voted down on Thursday, February 2, 2012. The weight increase would have allowed the limit to be 97,000 lbs, but was blocked by the The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Rapid City Journal (South Dakota) website published an article on the story:

Nationally, transportation safety advocates including AAA say allowing heavier trucks would cause more truck accident fatalities in part because they take longer to stop. Some highway officials and lawmakers worry it also would deteriorate roads faster.

Although safety advocates and small independent truckers oppose the increase in weight limit, shipping companies would benefit from heavier loads because it would essentially allow them to transport more freight with fewer trips.

The new regulation would require trucks with six axles instead of five plus new technology would have to be implemented for optimum weight distribution. In addition to retrofitting costs, the changes would also necessitate increased operating costs for fuel and maintenance. These increased costs could be more easily borne by large trucking companies than by small shippers and independent owner/operators.

The Rapid City Journal article also had comments from Cary Goodman, a Rapid City truck driver, who offered his opinion:

“… nationwide trucking companies with enough cash to buy new trucks and retrofit old ones would benefit from more cargo … The rate increase does not compensate for the fuel and the maintenance increase to the little guy – the guy that is doing the job,” Goodman said. “It’s going to drive the little owner-operators out of business because we can’t compete.”

The proposed new transportation bill would clearly favor the large shipping companies and would make it harder for smaller companies to compete. Not only would it be harder on the small operator, but also transportation officials are concerned about the effect of added weight on the wear and tear of our highway system and infrastructure of roads and bridges.

Officials and truckers are not worried so much about our Interstate highways, rather they are more concerned about local roads when the tractor trailers get off the Interstates. County roads are generally not designed for heavier loads like the ones being proposed.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) monitors the condition of bridges, classifying bridges as:

  • Poor
  • Mediocre
  • Structurally Deficient
  • Functionally Obsolete

According to the FHWA, 24 percent of South Dakota’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and 33 percent of its roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

According to the Butte County Highway Superintendent, the county’s primary roads are in good shape but the secondary roads are beaten down. There are a lot of bridges that couldn’t be crossed by big rigs pulling loads over 40 tons.

Posted by truck accident lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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