In my law practice, I have encountered truck crashes involving overweight tractor-trailers and crashes with double and triple trailers.
Recently, Congressman James P. McGovern (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced legislation that would extend truck size and weight limits to the entire national highway system, limits that currently only apply to interstate highways. States can – and often do – adjust the limits on non-interstate roads by issuing overweight load permits, allowing heavier and longer trucks to travel our roadways. In some instances these permits allow trucks to double the limit!
At the same time that Congressman McGovern is pushing to extend the limits on truck size, advocates for the trucking industry are lobbying congress to increase the maximum allowable truck weight from the current 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. These advocates assert that bigger trucks will mean fewer trucks on our highways, and will help in the fight against global warming. They argue that with fewer trucks on the road, safety will increase.
Experience shows that the trucking industry argument is false. When Congress passed legislation in 1982 that required all states to raise the maximum allowable Interstate weight limit for trucks to 80,000 pounds, the total number of miles traveled by big rigs increased by 63% in the next ten years according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Larger trucks were able to compete more effectively with rail and drew business away from that industry. Instead of fewer trucks on the roads, the number actually increased. Having more trucks on the road means more fuel burned, and, significantly, more congestion on the roads, which makes motorists less safe, not more.
I have represented many people and their families when crashes with overweight trucks have maimed or killed other drivers. One case stands out in which the driver of a gas tanker admitted to regularly overfilling his tanker beyond the 80,000 pound maximum weight limit because he could make more money. This same company was found to have drivers on the road in gas tankers on drugs! After the government fined them, this company put the driver who had been on drugs back on the road!! It is cases with facts like these that motivate me to continue doing the work I do in order to help hold bad trucking companies responsible and keep bad drivers off the road. They are a disgrace to the many good professional truck drivers, and a menace to society.