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Congress Considers Making Highways More Dangerous

The United States Congress is currently considering a proposal to raise the weight limit on commercial semi-trucks from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds. However, the proposal is controversial with arguments and concerns on both sides.

Current Dangers in Commercial Trucking

Semi-trucks hauling large trailers filled with consumer goods are typically the largest and heaviest vehicles on our roads. Because of their size relative to passenger cars, these tractor-trailers can cause a significant amount of damage in a truck accident.

A semi-truck’s mass is its most lethal characteristic. An 80,000 pound semi-truck requires approximately 300 feet to fully stop when traveling at 55 mph; and because of its size, a trailer can do damage to multiple vehicles at once. To somewhat regulate and prevent catastrophic semi-truck-on-passenger-car accidents, the federal government has capped the weight of a semi-truck and its load at 80,000 pounds. Many documented cases have demonstrated that overloaded trucks and unsecured loads can be the root cause of fatal trucking accidents.

Pros of Increasing the Weight Limit

Permitting an additional 17,000 pounds of cargo will allow shipment of more goods with fewer trucks. With increasing fuel costs that quickly inflate consumer prices, allowing additional weight would help protect consumers who are already stretched economically thin.

Advocates of the weight increase claim safety will not be impacted because heavier trucks would have a required third axle. That would distribute the additional weight and provide a third breaking system to help trucks stop sooner.

Cons of Increasing the Weight Limit

Many critics of the increase say driver performance is more important in accident prevention than additional axles and breaking capabilities. More importantly, common sense and physics tell us a collision with a 50-ton semi-truck will be worse than with a 40-ton truck. Safety on our roads must continue to supersede economic concerns when debating this topic.

If economics is part of the analysis, the damage to roads and bridges caused by heavier trucks must be considered. Current interstate bridges are built to support 80,000-pound trucks. Increasing the limit to 97,000 pounds would require significant investment in reinforcement or even rebuilding of many bridges nationwide. Critics claim the trucking industry is notorious for not paying its own way on such projects, passing the bill to taxpayers.

Driver Safety is Critical

Compounding the safety concerns of increased weight is the failure of truckers and their companies to comply with trucking regulations. If driver performance is a critical factor in truck accident prevention, heightened scrutiny of regulatory compliance should accompany any weight limit change. Failing to do so would further endanger our roads.

Increasing the weight limit of commercial semi-trucks may not be a good idea, despite some arguments in its favor. Since even the trucking industry is divided on the issue, it is clear that the debate will continue in Congress and across the country for some time.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident with an 18-wheeler, contact a Kansas City personal injury attorney with experience in trucking accidents. A knowledgeable lawyer will help you recover the full amount of damages obtainable under Missouri law.