Mailbag: ‘All about the money’? — Reader views on increasing truck weight

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I recall a move back in 2007 to do something similar to what’s going on in Congress relative to interstate truck weight limits on the National Highway System — as a reminder, there’s a standalone bill (the “SAFE Trucking Act) currently proposed by Reid Ribble of Wisconsin to increase max weight from 80,000 to 91,000 lbs. that he’s promoting as a way to “increase efficiency, decrease traffic, and make everyone safer in the process.”

Back in 2007, the proposal was to raise weight higher, to 97,000 lbs., with an extra trailer axle, and as lobbying from shipper and other interests continued for the notion in Congress, something dramatic happened.

The 2007 collapse of the Minneapolis I-35W bridge effectively muted further discussion of the truck weights back then.The 2007 collapse of the Minneapolis I-35W bridge effectively muted further discussion of the truck weights back then.

A couple years ago, then, similar Congressional dynamics were ramping up for the 97,000-lb. measure just as the I-5 bridge collapse in Washington State took place. I’m not the only one feeling again, as I wrote then, a profound sense of deja-vu hearing the spin in favor of (and, in many cases, against) the proposal, as several operators note in this mailbag podcast:

A sizable majority of Overdrive readers (64 percent) see negative primary consequences of raising interstate truck weight limits, preferring the current limit to the added burden of new equipment. Asked to choose between the following options or specify other primary consequences in recent polling, more than 1,000 respondents came down along these lines:

What would be the principle effect of allowing greater truck weight (with an extra axle) on major highways?

“80,000 lbs is plenty of weight to be dragging down the highway unless being compensated extra for purchasing specialized permits,” noted Jim Stewart in favor of the current limit. The reach for a “new normal” of additional weight, he added, was little more than the “same song and dance [that] has always been the case each time industry desk jockeys have wanted to raise weights, length and truck width. Each time, within a few short months of the new rules being implemented, the freight rate either goes right back to what it was before or in many cases is reduced. Every time the majority of these so-called trucking industry officials talk about changing laws for efficiency or extra profit that always works out as a windfall for the shipper.

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“We actually made more money at 73,280 lbs. than the standard 80,000 today. I feel this is just more baloney being pushed by the ATA, as is speed limiters, to try to stifle competition by owner-operators or small carriers who would have to purchase new equipment to continue make the same money.”

While fears of undue deterioration of already stressed infrastructure — as well as a reported definite concern for stopping distance, even with the extra braking effect of a sixth axle, with so much traffic on today’s congested roads — shows strongly in the poll results, at least some readers suggested such sentiment was not warranted. Among the small 6 percent that saw a potential safety-positive outcome for a boost in truck carrying capacity was Robert P. VanNatta, who wrote in that “Oregon is grandfathered all the way to 105,500 lbs. if axle spacing is enough to meet bridge formula rules (spread out). More axles  = more brakes and better stopping distances.”

The Ribble bill currently shows 9 cosponsors. Track it/see who they are via this link.

More voices follow, via

Yote Anders: An oxymoron (plural oxymora or oxymorons) is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Oxymora appear in a variety of contexts, including inadvertent errors (such as “ground pilot”) and literary oxymorons crafted to reveal a paradox. A “Safe Trucking Act” that boosts weight limits seems to qualify to me!

Pull more weight for the same rate and burn more fuel for the same rate. Good idea if you are an idiot and like to throw away your money for someone else to gain from your loss.

Change in the weight would only cause more damage and more accidents with inexperienced operators on the road. It maybe more efficient, but we need to look at the general public concern. Coming from a truck driver here…

Adding a third trailer axle will carve up more pavement wherever trucks need to turn tightly.

Vlademir de Santi: I think we should raise the weight limit, but not until you get a fixed pay structure in place. [Until such is there] adding more weight will only break our bank even more! We are in flatbed, and it’s been a struggle trying to survive at these current market rates. We are barely making ends meet with 10 trucks!

“RC”: In a fair world, rates would go up with the increased weight hauled. But that won’t happen. Too many cutthroats out there who are too ignorant about their own survival and operation. I mostly haul oversize and heavier loads already — extra weight does wear your stuff out quicker. It doesn’t matter how much extra weight you can carry: when things are busy and trucks are scarce, pay is mostly good. When things are slow, like now, and trucks are sitting around waiting for anything, those old rates sure take a nosedive. I don’t know if increasing the amount of weight you can haul would make too much of a difference up against the other factors that we have to work with. Me being cynical, I would say you’d get paid the same to haul more weight and tear up your equipment sooner.