Truck Size Increases

Our Ask:

  • Oppose Increases to Truck Length or Weight Limits

Congress has historically upheld restrictions on truck sizes with trucks on the Interstate Highway System limited to 80,000 pounds and two 28-foot trailers. Persistent efforts to raise these limits to at least 91,000 pounds and allow longer double-trailer trucks have met resistance due to their anticipated adverse effects.

Despite calls for change, the USDOT’s 2016 Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study advised against alterations to federal policy, citing multiple concerns, including the potential for heightened infrastructure damage, increased tax burdens, diminished rail utilization, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Comprehensive research on all safety and financial implications should be completed before considering any adjustments to truck length and weight limits.

Legislative Background

Federal law limits the weight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to 80,000 lbs. In the 118th Congress, several bills seek to make trucks heavier.

  • HR 3372: wrongly called a ‘pilot’ program, increases truck weight to 91,000 lbs., ending federal law governing truck weight for up to 10 years.
  • HR 2948: allows for increases to 88,000 lbs. for auto transporters.
  • MOVE Act - February 2024 introduced by U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson and Jim Costa, allowing for states to waive truck limits in emergency declarations by Governors, including declarations regarding disease and declarations regarding challenging supply chain conditions.

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.

Heavier Trucks Increase Risk of Highway Accidents and Deaths

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.

Increasing truck weight limits to 91,000 pounds would negatively affect more than 4,800 bridges, incurring up to $1.1 billion in additional federal investment.

USDOT, MAP-21 Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Final Report to Congress, 2016

Heavier Trucks Damage Critical Infrastructure at Taxpayer Cost

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.

Heavier Trucks Harm the Environment

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.

Heavier Trucks Disrupt the Regional and U.S. Supply Chain

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.

An increase in allowed total gross truck weights from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds (but with no change in trailer length) is estimated to result in the diversion of 2.6 million annual railroad carloads and 1.8 million intermodal units from rail to road.

Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), Estimating the Rail-to-Truck Traffic Diversions Attributable to Increased Truck Size and Weight, 2020

Heavier Trucks Actually Lead to More Trucks on the Road

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

Key Takeaway:

Congress should oppose any provisions, including pilot programs at state or local levels, that seek to increase the weight or length of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on roads and highways.

By increasing truck length and weight, Congress is determining winning versus losing modes of transportation, increasing safety risk to the motoring public, working backwards on the environmental impact of transportation, increasing taxpayer costs for roadway maintenance, and in the case of pilot programs, negatively impacting supply chain fluidity.