The semi trucks we all drive with on the highway can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. While 40 tons at 65 mph is intimidating, Congress is considering raising the allowable weight limit on those trucks by 21 percent to 97,000 pounds. Despite the economic benefits to raising the limit, the additional risk to human life does not justify such a change.
Easing the current weight restrictions will require fewer trucks to ship more goods. Fewer trucks would consume less fuel, which would presumably result in lower shipping rates. Hopefully, this would be reflected in lower consumer prices. Environmentalists see this as a means to lessen truck-produced air pollution.
Opponents of the change cite greater damage to roads and bridges from the increased weight of trucks. Many already claim the trucking industry does not pay its fair share for road damage so more damage will inevitably be passed on to states and taxpayers, not the industry.
More importantly, truck and tractor-trailer accidents result in serious injury and death. In 2009, 3,196 people were killed in large truck accidents; of those, 70 percent were in cars or other passenger vehicles. Drivers and passengers in the trucks have physics on their side. A 40-ton semi truck will logically fair better than a 2-ton car (and its passengers) in a collision between the two. Allowing 17,000 more pounds can only makes things worse.
The primary concern is that heavier truckloads require more distance to stop to avoid an accident, resulting in more frequent fatal car injuries with trucks. An 80,000 pound semi truck travelling 55 mph needs the length of a football field to come to a complete stop. Then tack on an additional 17,000 pounds and imagine the additional cars that would fall victim to its mass.
While there may be economic benefits to increasing the weight limit of semi trucks on our highways, the value of human life cannot be ignored in the analysis. It is individual human beings who will feel the true impact of increasing semi truck weight limits.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact a knowledgeable truck accident attorney to discuss your specific situation and your options.