Federal law limits the weight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to 80,000 lbs. In the 118th Congress, two bills seek to make trucks heavier.
Since 1982, Congress has repeatedly declined to increase truck length or weight.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) examined the impacts of increasing current federal limits and agreed that no changes to federal policy should be made.
More than thirty national organizations, including law enforcement, fire and medical first responders, county and city administrators, mayors, labor organizations from rail and trucking, supplier organizations, safety advocates and more oppose heavier trucks!
More than 1,500 local government leaders oppose congressional proposals to increase truck length or weight, as longer or heavier trucks could damage local infrastructure and cost local governments billions of dollars.
The state of safety on our nation’s roads is already terrifying, and making the problem worse ought to be unthinkable. Fatal crashes involving trucks are on the rise. Heavier trucks will take longer to stop and will do even more harm when they collide with motorists. In 2021, 5,600 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes on our nation’s highways, an increase of 13 percent from 2020.1 If heavier trucks are allowed, these figures will only get worse.
Heavier trucks would cause billions of dollars in infrastructure damage to roads and bridges that are primarily paid for by taxpayers. As vehicle weight increases, damage to roadways increases disproportionately. This is particularly true for local and rural roads, which aren’t built to the same standards as interstates. In addition to increasing costs, the excess damage caused by bigger trucks will make it harder to keep up with maintenance schedules in small communities with scarce resources.
Moving freight by truck instead of rail increases greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. Moving freight by truck also releases into the atmosphere non-exhaust emissions small enough to be inhaled, such as tire particulates and other toxic materials. According to the EPA, in addition to negative health impacts on the public, particulate matter can be carried over long distances by wind and then settle on ground or water, further damaging the environment.
Railroads — particularly short lines — compete aggressively with trucks to service shippers. CMV weight increases will give the trucking industry a competitive advantage and will shift freight from rail to truck in many communities, resulting in loss of railroad service as short lines operate on slim margins. A small reduction in freight can cause catastrophic economic impact to a small railroad, even forcing a railroad out of business. As railroads shutter, and transportation options are reduced to one, heavier trucks will result in increasing transportation costs and a reduction in supply chain resiliency. The public will experience rising prices with higher transportation costs being passed along to the consumer and economic contraction as local jobs and future regional economic growth are lost, including jobs at shippers that have been driven out of business by higher transportation costs.
Those supporting heavier trucks argue that an increase in truck weight will mean more goods and freight will be able to move on the current number of trucks on the road. They say there will be no overall increase in trucks on the nation’s highways. But that is not what will happen – studies demonstrate that heavier trucks actually lead to more trucks on the road. A recent study has shown that increasing truck weight from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds will divert 20.4% of U.S. freight rail carload traffic, or 2.6 million freight rail cars, over a 5-year period to roadways. An analysis of intermodal (combination of truck and rail service) indicates that an increase in weight will lead to 1.8 million more truckloads on our highways over the same period.2
1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts – Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter, 2023
2 Mark Burton, Appalachian Transportation Institute, Estimating the Rail-to-Truck Traffic Diversions Attributable to Increased Truck Size and Weight, 2020
By increasing truck weight, Congress is determining winning versus losing modes of transportation.