Should truck weight limits be increased despite safety risks?

Legislation is currently pending in Congress which would permit the weight limits of trucks to increase by 20%. Currently, the weight limit for trucks traveling U.S. interstates is 80,000 pounds. Proponents of the proposed law, which includes a group made up of large shipping companies, including the likes of Coca Cola and The Home Depot, argue that increasing the weight limit to 97,000 pounds will increase efficiency and reduce emissions, thus benefiting the environment.

However, opponents of the legislation are concerned about safety. According to them, heavier trucks may lead to more serious highway accidents and resulting injuries. However, as discussed in this FOX News article, proponents of the law make the opposite argument:

In 2009, nearly 300,000 trucks were involved in crashes in the United States, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Safety advocates argue heavier trucks may cause more serious accidents. But proponents of the legislation say increasing the weight limit would actually reduce the number of trucks on roads, making them safer.

Another issue raised by those who oppose the law is that it may result in increased costs for individual states, as explained in the FOX News article:

“If we advocate for higher weights, it’s going to be more wear and tear on our roads, which means more money,” said Jim Cole, a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation. “We have to balance that with an economic picture of the future, as well.”

While the proposed law does allow states to opt out, doing so doesn’t alleviate the safety issues for those states that opt in. If studies support the contention that larger trucks will likely cause more serious car accidents on our interstate highways, then this safety issue shouldn’t be ignored–and it certainly shouldn’t be trumped by the desire to increase efficiency and corporate profits. Profit should never take precedence over people’s lives and any reasonable actions that can be taken to reduce serious automobile accidents on our nation’s roadways should occur even if it means less money will line corporate pockets as a result.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.