Washington, D.C. Considers Increasing Semi Truck Weight Limit
Catastrophic. Armageddon. War zone. That is how many people, including North Carolina state troopers, describe accident scenes involving 18-wheeler semi trucks. With the weight and speed of a tractor-trailer on highways and interstates, it can decimate anything in its path. That is why current legislation in Washington, D.C. is causing controversy. Before the House and Senate are bills calling for the federal weight limit for trucks to be raised from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. As part of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), supporters believe the measures will increase productivity and profitability while decreasing the number of trucks on the road. Initially introduced in 2009 as H.R. 1799, SETA was reintroduced in 2011 as H.R. 763. It effectively provides states with the option to raise interstate weight limits by 17,000 pounds for six-axle trucks. Should a portion of roadway or a bridge be deemed as unsafe for the increased weight limit, states would have the ability to exempt them from being traveled by haulers carrying the heavier loads. Despite states retaining the option to accept the heavier load limit, many organizations believe that the potential impact of the legislation could be disastrous in terms of the human impact due to the serious trucking accidents that may result if heavier trucks are on the road.
A Matter of Motorist Safety
Trucking companies have expressed concern for the welfare of their drivers should truck engines or tires be unable to withstand the extra pounds. State law enforcement and other agencies fear for the safety of the drivers, passengers and others who would be forced to share the roadways with the heavier trucks. At current weight, a semi truck requires a significantly larger stopping distance than a standard vehicle. If trucks are loaded to the increased weight limits, that same stopping distance would no longer be adequate. Also, there is question as to whether straps and other tie-down devices would be strong enough to bear the loads should a truck be forced to stop quickly or to veer sharply. Opponents to H.R. 763 and S. 747 believe it comes down to a matter of motorist safety. They believe the weight limit should remain and support a competing bill, H.R. 1618, which would freeze the maximum truck weight at 80,000 pounds. A decision on SETA is expected within the next few weeks when it will be voted on in committee.