I was flipping through an old issue of Fleet Owner – August 1990 to be exact – and what did I expect to find? Certainly not the story on truck weight limits on Page 10 by Thomas L. Moore, the magazine’s Washington Editor at the time.
The article, “Lifting truck weight limits,” read like it could have been written today. It detailed a report by the Transportation Research Board that recommended Congress relax federal weight limits and leave the determination up to individual states. The weight limit in 1990: 80,000 pounds, the same as today.
So, it was with great amusement that I read the article and saw all the same rational then that we see today for lifting the limits. The report talks about how raising the limit – it suggested 114,500 pounds for 5- or 6-axle vehicles with twin 48-ft. trailers and 131,000 pounds for vehicles equipped with nine axles – would improve productivity, save the trucking industry nearly $4 billion a year, and reduce the cost of moving goods – all positives.
It did note, as do the reports today, that the increased weight would put added pressure on roadways, but it suggested – ready for this? – higher user fees to recoup the money that would be needed to repair the roadways.
In fact, the report specifically stated that “unless revenues required to cover additional pavement and bridge costs are provided to highway agencies, the condition of the highway system will deteriorate, thereby increasing vehicle repair costs, travel delays, and accidents, while lowering fuel economy and adversely affecting driver comfort.”
The report added that allowing the heavier weights “would attract 23 million ton-miles of freight from rail to truck, representing a 2.2% reduction in rail traffic.”
There are now identical bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives that would boost the 80,000 pound weight limit to 97,000 pounds by adding a sixth axle.
And 20 years later, the same arguments still hold true.