Possible Increase in Federal Weight Limit for Large Trucks

A proposed addendum to a federal highway bill would increase the weight limit for large trucks operating on federal highways. While the current limit is 80,000 lbs., the change in federal regulation would permit states to set a maximum weight limit of 91,000 lbs., but only if the operators of the truck install a sixth axle. Most semis and tractor-trailers currently have five axles. The change would not be mandatory for states to adopt, meaning that states could individually choose to retain a maximum weight limit of 80,000 lbs. for trucks traveling on their interstate highway system.

The legislator proposing the changed weight limit, Rep. Reid Ribble (R, WI) advertises the change as one with the potential to both increase roadway safety and to increase profitability for businesses who rely heavily on ground transportation and shipping. Currently, these companies complain of having to send partially-filled trucks out onto the road which have hit their weight limit but not full capacity. Industry representatives suggest that the number of large truck accidents would necessarily decrease if fewer such trucks were on the road, and that fewer trucks would result in fewer carbon emissions from those trucks. Ribble cites research conducted by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) stating that, when a sixth axle is installed on big rigs and semis, this allows the weight of the truck to be distributed over a greater base, so that transportation infrastructure would not experience greater abuse from the larger trucks. He also cites research stating that the braking distance would remain the same or decrease, despite the additional weight, due to the addition of the sixth axle.

A number of detractors contest the notion that the heavier six-axle trucks will contribute to greater safety on the road, however, citing research done in states which already allow heavier six-axle semis and big rigs. A survey of crash rates among the heavier trucks conducted by the DOT showed that the six-axle trucks had up to a 47% higher crash rate. These crashes naturally also came with much greater crash forces, and thus more destructive potential, than an accident involving a lighter truck. Additionally, the trucks were much more likely to have brake violations when subjected to inspection, which would again have amplified negative effects for a heavier truck. The DOT stated that there was insufficient data on the heavier six-axle trucks to make a conclusive statement about their safety.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a large truck accident in Kentucky, contact the experienced and knowledgeable Lexington truck accident attorneys at O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC for a consultation on your claim, at 859-317-2056.

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