Last month, Wisconsin Representative Reid Ribble introduced a bill that would allow larger, heavier trucks on U.S. roadways. The bill, called the Safe, Flexible, and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act, argues that this would both increase highway productivity and decrease the amount of trucks on the road. This bill is in response to a study conducted by the Department of Transportation earlier this year entitled “Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study,” a federal requirement under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
According to the bill, states would be allowed to decide whether to allow trucks carrying 91,000 pounds of cargo (currently trucks can only carry a maximum of 80,000 pounds) on roadways. While larger, heavier trucks may sound like they would present an increased danger to drivers, proponents cite the findings of the study, which state that they would be just as safe as current commercial trucks if a sixth axle was added to help both support the weight of the trailer and improve braking capacity. This configuration would still be compliant under U.S. DOT’s existing federal bridge formula, and would result in trucks having the same, if not better, stopping distances and pavement wear.
Ribble contends that this change to the trucking industry would help alleviate overcrowding on our highways, which were built at a time when the population was almost half of what it is now. Since truck travel has expanded more than 20 times faster than the capacity of roadways, supporters of the bill argue that the highway capacity crunch must be confronted now if the U.S. trucking industry hopes to remain competitive.
“The Safe Trucking Act safely improves the productivity of truck shipments so we can decrease the truckloads necessary to meet demand and make our entire transportation network more efficient.”
– John Runyan, Executive Director, CTP
Those who oppose the bill are concerned that heavier trucks will pose a serious threat to infrastructure like roads, bridges, and tunnels. There is also concern over higher risks of truck rollover, unsafe highway merging, and stopping distances, which many are still concerned would be an issue.
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