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Longer, Heavier Trucks Contemplated By Congress

The House Transportation Committee recently debated the impact of longer, heavier trucks on the nation's highways. During discussions for funding a five-year transportation bill, the committee considered amendments that would permit trucks up to 110-feet in length and weighing 126,000 pounds.

Three-Year Study Requested

Concerns were raised that these changes would compromise safety of other vehicles and increase the risk of truck accidents. The heavier trucks could also damage local roads that were built to less robust standards than the interstate highway system.

The vote went along party lines, with Republicans backing trucking interests and Democrats opposing the larger trucks. The committee has requested a three-year study to determine the effect the heavier trucks would have on safety and the highways.

About One Trillion Dollars Short

The transportation bill has been criticized as inadequately funding the nation's highway infrastructure. The Washington Post reports that the price tag for the five-year bill was limited to $260 billion.

The necessary repairs and reconstruction of much of the highways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure would come in at that much per year, meaning the price tag for the bill should be $1.3 trillion.

CNN reports Sen. Frank Lautenberg as saying, "If there was ever a recipe for disaster, this is it." He is the Chairman of the subcommittee. The article also cites statistics from the Truck Safety Coalition indicating truck crash fatalities increased 9 percent in 2010 to 3,675.

Given the risks posed by larger overloaded trucks and the potential damage to ageing roads and bridges, combined with the refusal by Congress to adequately fund transportation systems, it seems appropriate that they are requiring a study to gauge the effects of the trucks. The study would examine the effects on crash rates, vehicle-miles traveled, pavement performance, bridge reliability and other factors.

Source: "Lawmakers debate effects of longer, heavier trucks on highways," Washington Post, 2/2/12

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