April 15, 2020 — As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches every corner of the United States, government and business are looking at ways to provide the needed services that citizens require, including medical supplies, food and water. Our country is in an extraordinary time and extraordinary measures must be taken.

This is why the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks has not opposed the efforts of some governors who have used the emergency declaration powers given them by Congress to temporarily raise truck weights to move relief supplies. We also know these measures come with risks to the public, law enforcement, first responders and the truck drivers themselves, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

Although we support the emergency measures during the pandemic, we believe they should continue only as long as absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, special interest organizations representing major retailers and shipping giants are lobbying Congress and the states to pursue dangerous increases in the size and weight of trucks.

In a March 19 email to lawmakers, Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT), advocated for overturning existing length limits. “As you explore innovative solutions to meet the immediate needs of our nation, we hope you will consider the benefits of allowing for a modest five-foot length increase to the existing national standard for twin trailers,” their letter says.

Similarly, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is asking that all U.S. states take advantage of Congress’ emergency measure and raise truck weights to 88,000 pounds. “Establishing a minimum truck weight limit of 88,000 pounds would ensure that a minimum harmonized weight exists across the country and help protect against essential shipments adhering to this common increase from being impeded at state borders,” the group said in a March 30 letter to governors.

In addition, the National Grocers Association (NGA) has also sent a letter asking Congress to remove all federal truck weight limits until the emergency declaration is lifted.

If heavier or longer trucks are approved, these changes will mean bigger and more dangerous trucks on our roads, bringing higher risks for first responders, truck drivers and motorists engaged in essential travel.

  • Larger trucks are far more dangerous to motorists, according to studies by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency found that heavier trucks with six axles—both 91,000-pound and 97,000-pound configurations—had higher crash rates in limited state testing.
  • The agency also found that testing of two tethered longer trucks, each 33 feet in length, took 22 feet longer to stop than the twin 28-foot-long trucks on the road today.
  • Law enforcement officers around the country are against heavier and longer trucks because of their dangers.

These larger trucks will also cause economic damage, hurting the rail industry by diverting freight and under-cutting safe truckers who abide by current limits. A 2010 study estimates that up to 20 percent of freight will be diverted from rail if these massive, new trucks take to the road. Truckers hauling within normal size and weight limits can also expect to be under-cut by firms offering bigger trucks that can move more for less. These are losses no industry can afford in these challenging times.

Finally, these longer, heavier trucks will put immense strain on the nation’s aging infrastructure, especially older bridges, causing re-enforcement and repair bills that the trucking firms are not required to pay.

These emergency increases are important at this unique time in America’s history, but they must not be allowed to continue once the crisis has passed. Our nation needs to return to normal as soon as is feasible and safe – and that includes allowing only safe trucking on our roads.