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Heavier trucks on Texas highways could pose greater risks

Because of the sheer size and weight of 18-wheelers, trucking accidents in Texas are often deadly. This could become even more accurate if a new law is passed. Congress is currently considering whether or not to authorize a change in federal law that would allow the maximum weight for commercial trucks on highways to increase from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds.

A few trucks with special permits are currently allowed to exceed the weight limit, paying anywhere from $15 to $4,000 for the privilege. The proposed law would make super heavy trucks more commonplace on highways in Texas and the rest of the country. Critics argue that the change could enhance the risk to other motorists and increase the number of trucking accidents.

Proponents of the legislation include about 200 companies, many of which are heavily involved in the shipping of household goods using tractor-trailers. The remaining proponents are almost all trucking companies. For them, the issue revolves around reducing their costs for fuel and enhancing their profits, with their focus not concentrated on the possible safety ramifications.

Those opposing the legislation contend that heavier trucks will inevitably inflict more damage on the country's infrastructure, including on sagging bridges already in need of repair. This can cause bridge collapses like one five years ago in Minnesota that injured 145 people and killed 13.

Making matters far worse, no federal funds are currently available, or likely to be readily available soon, for repairing such bridges. The cost of backlogged repairs in the country is now approaching $70.9 billion.

Further, the heavier trucks take 25 percent more area to come to a real stop, which can lead to more accidents, opponents say. Truck accidents already impose a heavy burden on the public, resulting in 3,675 deaths in 2010 nationwide, an increase of approximately nine percent from 2009.

Source: Bellingham Herald, "Trucks on federal highways could soon be heavier," Gordon Dickson, Jan. 30, 2012

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