Are There Heavier Trucks on the Road?

November 10th, 2015 by Attorney Julie Butcher

The allowable weight for a commercial truck depends on how many axles it has. How safe it is depends not only on its weight but on how well it’s equipped, maintained, loaded and driven. For semi-trucks the federal and state limit is 80,000 pounds, though there are over-size trucks with heavy loads on the roads, too. If someone is caught up in an accident with a fully loaded semi-truck, given the force that can come to bear, the results are often fatalities or life-long disabilities.

The trucking industry has long tried to get heavier trucks on the road. The heavier the truck, the more it can haul, the more efficient the trip, the higher the profit margin. With heavier trucks, the industry can argue fewer trucks will be needed, thus fewer trucks involved in accidents. However, as the weight of the truck increases, the more difficult it becomes to control the truck.

Whether or not to allow heavier trucks on the nation’s roads has been a long-lasting debate in Congress. Like so many other issues, a compromise hasn’t been reached on this issue, according to The Hill. It reports a bill has been introduced to allow states to decide whether or not to allow heavier trucks (up to 91,000 pounds) in an effort to bypass the inertia in Congress.

To put the issue in perspective, a 91,000-pound truck is the equivalent of the weight of more than twenty of the nation’s most popular new vehicle, the Ford F-150 pickup truck.

In addition to the safety issues that come with a 91,000-pound vehicle that may be speeding, going too fast for conditions or be otherwise out of control, a patchwork of weight limits by different states would be highly impractical for the trucking industry. It would be impossible to legally drive a 91,000-pound truck from one state where it would be allowed to another where it’s not.

There are many reasons to fear larger trucks on the roads. According to an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Howard Abramson, a former executive at American Trucking Association,

  • More people will be killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks this year than have died in all of the domestic commercial airline crashes in the past 45 years.
  • Truck drivers are allowed to work up to 82 hours a week. Long work hours increase the risk of driver fatigue and accidents.
  • The death toll from truck-related accidents increased 17% from 2009 to 2013. These fatalities have risen four years in a row, reaching 3,964 in 2013. Over the same time period, deaths caused by car accidents dropped 3%.

We need to have commercial trucks on our roads. Our current economy would be impossible without them. But if we have 91,000-pound trucks traveling the roads, the deaths and injuries that will result will not be worth whatever cost savings there may be. We help those injured in truck accidents and know the severe injuries and deaths these vehicles can cause. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact our office.