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U.S. Bridges Can't Take Heavier Big Rigs

Posted on in Auto Safety

Perhaps sensing regulatory blood in the water, shipping and hauling interests reportedly are again actively promoting the idea that bigger, heavier trucks be allowed on the nation's highways. You'd think just the potential impact of these heavier trucks on the nation's aging bridges would make this a non-starter. But no.

Although no new legislation has been introduced as yet, two new groups, Americans for Modern Transportation and the Safer Hauling and Infrastructure Protection Coalition, are again advocating for longer and heavier trucks. Made up of businesses that rely heavily on truck hauling, the groups reportedly are actively lobbying members of Congress.

Last Proposals Were Defeated

Federal law limits big rigs to 80,000 pounds and no more than two trailers. Many of the nation's bridges were designed based on a formula that includes this maximum weight. Proposals that would have increased allowable truck weights to 91,000 (or by 5.5 tons), and allowed longer lengths, were defeated by safety advocacy groups and some trucking groups in 2015. The poor state of the nation's bridges was a big reason why.

According to the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card by the American Association of Civil Engineers:

  • Almost four in 10 of America's 614,000 bridges are 50 years old or older
  • 9.1% of them – or more than 56,000 – are “structurally deficient,” meaning they require significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement to be considered safe
  • 188 million trips per day, on average, are taken across “structurally deficient” bridges
  • The backlog of rehabilitation projects for the nation's bridges is estimated at $123 billion

Bigger Trucks Pose Risks to Public

Aging bridges aren't the only reasons to defeat this legislation again. Studies consistently have shown that heavier trucks would pose major risks to the driving public, as I've blogged about before.

But bridges are drive-over examples in communities everywhere of the potentially serious consequences of altering big truck weights. Any such new legislation should be defeated quickly. What do you think?

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