Heavier trucks would mean more dangerous highways, more damage to infrastructure, and a bigger bill for taxpayers.

While trucking plays an important role in the economy, bigger trucks would endanger motorists and cause immense damage to our nation’s infrastructure. Despite these negative impacts, some now want Congress to allow even heavier trucks on the road.

Get the full picture of the impact of heavier trucks, below.

Why Are Heavier Trucks Bad Policy?

America’s taxpayer-funded roadways and bridges are overused and underfunded. Increasing federal truck weight limits from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pound will:

  • Endanger motorists on the highway
  • Further damage infrastructure
  • Increase traffic congestion
  • Leave taxpayers with a bigger bill

These are just some of the reasons why the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) last year determined no changes to federal policy on truck size and weights should be made at this time.

Heavier Trucks: Myth vs. Fact

MYTH: Heavier trucks will make roads safer for our families.

FACT: Increasing the weight of trucks has profound consequences for their safe operation and the risk to other vehicles on the road. Heavier trucks tend to have a higher center of gravity, which increases the risk of rollovers. A 2016 USDOT study found in limited state testing that 91,000 pound trucks had 47% higher crash rates than trucks weighing 80,000 pounds. The study also found that trucks weighing over 80,000 pounds had higher out-of-service violation rates. This is important because a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that a truck with any out-of-service violation is 362% more likely to be involved in a crash.

Heavier trucks would not only make crashes more likely – they would increase the potential severity of a crash when one occurs. The severity of a crash is determined by the velocity and mass of a vehicle. Any increase in crash severity increases the likelihood of injuries becoming more serious, or resulting in fatalities.

MYTH: Heavier trucks will reduce infrastructure costs and save taxpayers money.

FACT: Allowing heavier trucks on an overburdened and underfunded highway network will leave taxpayers footing an even bigger bill.

In fact, a 2016 USDOT study looked at the impact of allowing 91,000 pound trucks on highways and found that increasing weight limits would negatively impact more than 4,800 bridges and incur up to $1.1 billion in additional bridge costs.

MYTH: We should test 91,000 pound, six-axle trucks in live traffic with motorists as part of a pilot project.

FACT: There is no reason to experiment with motorist safety. USDOT just completed a study last year that analyzed this exact truck configuration and recommended no changes to current truck size and weight laws. Also, Congress rejected this same proposal in 2015.

There is also no reason to test the strength of our infrastructure, considering that over 52% of the nation’s bridges are already in fair/poor condition, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

MYTH: Heavier trucks will reduce congestion.

FACT: Previous increases in truck size show that allowing heavier trucks on the road will encourage more trucks to hit the road. In fact, Federal Highway Administration data showed that since increasing weight limits in 1982, truck registrations have gone up 91%.

Heavier trucks will actually mean more trucks on the road. A study conducted in 2010 found that diverted freight will inevitably find its way onto the highway, resulting in 8 million more trucks on our roads and bridges—a 56% increase. This influx would not only further endanger motorists, but cause exponential damage to our nation’s roads and bridges.

The Public Strongly Opposes Heavier Trucks

A January 2015 nationwide survey conducted by Harper Polling found that:

  • 76% of respondents oppose longer and heavier trucks.
  • 57% of respondents were less likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports longer and heavier trucks.
  • 79% of respondents were very or somewhat convinced that heavier and longer trucks would lead to more braking problems and longer stopping distances, causing an increase in the number of accidents involving trucks.

Supporting Research

Highway Safety

U.S. Department of Transportation (2016)
Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study, Final Report to Congress

U.S. Department of Transportation (2015)
Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study, Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary

U.S. Department of Transportation (2015)
Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study, Highway Safety and Truck Crash Comparative Analysis Technical Report

U.S. Department of Transportation (2013)
Highway Safety and Truck Crash Comparative Analysis, Final Draft Desk Scan

Multimodal Transportation and Infrastructure Consortium (2013)
An Analysis of Truck Size and Weight: Phase I –Safety

U.S. Department of Transportation (2004)
Western Uniformity Scenario Analysis

Infrastructure Damage and Underpayment

The Road Information Program (2014)
Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland

U.S. Department of Transportation (2000)
Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study

Increased Truck Traffic and Rail Diversion

McCullough, Gerard (2013)
Long-Run Diversion Effects of Changes in TSW Restrictions: An Update of the 1980 FriedlaenderSpady Analysis, University of Minnesota

Martland, Carl D. (2010)
Estimating the Competitive Effects of Larger Trucks on Rail Freight Traffic

Martland, Carl D. (2007)
Estimating the Competitive Effects of Larger Trucks on Rail Freight Traffic