Coalition Against Bigger Trucks
Monday, March 06, 2017
Houston area mayors, law enforcement leaders stand up to dangerous, damaging tractor-trailers
HOUSTON -- The Texas Legislature this session is expected to consider increasing weights for tractor-trailers from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds or heavier, but local leaders are pushing back on the proposal.
Mayors of Morgan’s Point and La Porte are two of the elected officials standing up to the heavier-truck proposal.
“Trucks are an important part of our economy but heavier trucks endanger motorists and cost taxpayers money,” said Mayor Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point. “These trucks will be driving through our communities and by our schools. I will oppose any proposal that puts our residents at risk.”
Mayor Louis Rigby of La Porte also voiced his opposition to increasing truck weights. “We know these heavier trucks would negatively affect many while helping only a few,” he said. “I understand why a handful of shippers want them. However, I cannot support increasing truck weights at the expense of our residents and community,” said Rigby.
While legislation has not yet been officially filed, proponents have been pushing for heavier trucks at the state legislature, and a Texas Association of Manufacturers brochure states that the proposal will be filed this session. The group also claims in the brochure that heavier trucks would mean more flexibility for shippers, increased productivity, and fewer trucks on the road.
“Proponents of these trucks talk about ‘truck weight flexibility’ and ‘productivity,’ but there is nothing flexible or productive about more highway dangers and more damage to roads and bridges,” said Bechtel. “And, because these trucks would mean higher profits, these companies will put as many trucks on the road as possible to increase their bottom line. And that without a doubt in my mind means more trucks, not fewer.”
A study by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and delivered to Congress last year found in limited state testing that heavier trucks have significantly higher crash rates than trucks on Texas roads today--from 47 percent higher crash rates for 91,000-pound trucks up to 400 percent higher crash rates for 97,000-pound trucks. The study recommended against any increases in truck size or weight.
“My primary duty is to protect the people of La Porte, and heavier tractor-trailers undermine that mission,” said Police Chief Kenith Adcox of the La Porte Police Department. “Decades of research confirm what my officers and I already know: making trucks heavier would mean more severe crashes, and an increase in crash severity increases the chances of more injuries or worse.”
The USDOT study also found that heavier trucks have higher overall out-of-service violation rates and 18 percent higher brake violation rates. This is a critical finding because a 2016 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that a truck with any out-of-service violation is 362 percent more likely to be involved in a crash.
“An additional eight tons loaded onto an 80,000-pound truck will lead to serious problems, from increasing the likelihood of truck rollover to longer stopping distances,” said Police Chief Kenith Adcox. “We don’t want those trucks running through our local communities--that would be a serious setback for highway safety in La Porte.”
Because Congress voted to reject heavier trucks in 2015 on the Interstates, any heavier-truck proposals passed by the Texas Legislature would mean these trucks would have to operate on state and local roads.
Mayor Rigby also points to the additional costs that all taxpayers will face to repair damaged roads and bridges. “The City of La Porte operates on a strict budget, conservatively managing funds from taxpayers,” Rigby said. “Being forced to provide for additional costs that heavier trucks would exact on our infrastructure would be burdensome. I am sure most cities across the state are in similar situations.”
A 2016 study analyzed bridges in 18 coastal Texas counties and found that it could cost as much as $11.1 billion to replace bridges that would be “at risk” by the impact of 97,000-pound trucks. The same study analyzed Route 146 in Harris and Chamber counties and found that 22 out of 51 bridges could be at risk, with replacement costs of $252 million.
In addition to the dangers and costs of heavier trucks, a 2015 survey of small trucking companies found strong opposition to heavier configurations. The survey asked professional drivers in Texas their opinion of increasing truck weights and 85 percent opposed the idea, while 10 percent supported it.
“When so many small trucking companies here in Texas say they don’t want heavier trucks, you know it’s a bad idea,” said Mayor Bechtel. “We need to protect motorists including truck drivers--and we need to support small businesses, not undermine them.”