WAXAHACHIE —The daily grind of rush-hour traffic could potentially worsen with new legislation pending in Austin, as big rigs would be allowed to add additional weight to their loads — further damaging small town streets, says the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks.
“We deal with a lot of action on I-35, we have a lot of truck traffic coming through, and it’s aggravated by the construction, but to increase the size of the trucks, it’s not a good idea to me,” expressed Chief Wade Goolsby, Waxahachie’s Police Chief.
In a press release issued by national nonprofit Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), a group of Texas leaders and public safety officials are opposing legislation that would increase truck weight "within a 30-mile radius of port areas and international border crossings in Texas."
Bringing a state concern to a local level, a letter was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus Wednesday, April 19, advocating against the increase in weight for reasons of highway safety and further infrastructure damage.
The press release claims that the proposed legislation aims to increase the current legal weight limit from 80,000 to 100,000 pounds — raising the load by about 10 tons.
With that in mind, the coalition also claims that, if passed, Senate Bill 1524 and House Bill 3854 will further damage Texas’ roads and bridges, create an unfunded state mandate, and jeopardize the safety of Texas motorists and residents in their communities.
“The weight increases the braking distance, which increases the odds of losing control of a load if the weight shifts,” acknowledged Goolsby of his safety concern. “And we’ve had that happen where trucks are turning and the load shifts and turns over the truck.”
“The weight of those trucks is really going to be hard on the roads, and I don’t think the roads are designed to take that kind of weight and traffic, but that’s a question for the engineers who designed them,” he added. “I just know, from a police perspective, that it doesn’t seem like a good idea."
To add to Goolsby's caution, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) defined its 2015 findings in the 2016 Final Report to Congress, confirming that heavier trucks have over 47-percent higher crash rates in limited state testing.
Due to a truck’s load that’s typically stacked vertically, "heavier loads lead to a higher center of gravity, which increases the risk of rollovers" and “crack-the-whip” effects.
According to the USDOT report, extending the weight limit would not only up-the-ante in regards to safety, but would also cause a significant amount of wear-and-tear on many Texas roads.
Raising weight limits to 91,000 pounds would negatively affect more than 4,800 bridges, incurring up to $1.1 billion of additional federal investment, the report claimed.
Adding to that, 97,000-pound trucks would negatively affect more than 6,200 bridges, incurring up to $2.2 billion in additional funding.
The letter sent to Texas official’s states, “When you consider the amount of money the state has allotted to fix our roads already, passing this legislation would be a giant step backward, and allowing these trucks on the road puts the success of a private company before the physical and financial well-being of Texans.
“Please continue to lead in a meaningful, impactful way by ensuring that millions of Texans are not put at risk for private gain. The cost outweighs the benefit – It is not worth the risk,” it concludes.
In contrast, larger shipping companies are eager about the expansion of cargo space, which would allow them to fix shipping deficiencies. With a new sixth axle to disperse weight in commercial trucks and implementing a new braking system if the legislation is passed, the battle remains in debate.
“I understand they want to move more goods in an efficient manner, but at some point, it just becomes damaging to the roads, and it becomes more hazardous to the other drivers, and I think the legislation that’s proposed would do all those things,” Goolsby affirmed. “Anybody that drives on the highway should care because every one of us that drives out there sees big trucks and knows the danger of getting in a collision with one. I think the biggest issue here is a safety issue."
For more information visit Coalition Against Bigger Trucks at noheaviertruckstexas.org.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer