Friends residing in large cities lament the condition of their roads and the daily rush hour traffic jams they experience. When those friends visit us here in Missouri, the compliments flow about how well our roads are maintained and how reasonable our traffic is in comparison. One thing that would strike a blow to that relative harmony would be to increase the hauling capacity of freight trucks.
Portions of the trucking and truck-shipping lobby favor boosting truck weight limits by 14 percent, which looks pretty slight on paper. But the increase would significantly impact roads and safety in the Show-Me State.
Anheuser-Busch InBev — now of course a foreign-owned conglomerate — is leading the charge for larger trucks on Missouri roads, after requesting a new federal weight limit of 91,000 pounds up from 80,000 last year. The U.S. Congress rejected that request.
If you’re surprised by this, you aren’t alone. A new poll finds that 79 percent of voters oppose allowing bigger and heavier trucks on the roads. No, American attitudes towards freight trucks haven’t radically changed. The industry wants what it wants, and cares little for the wishes of taxpayers who subsidize the trucking industry, pay for infrastructure upkeep and share the roads.
While Missouri — the seventh-largest system of roads and bridges in the entire country, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation — may surpass other states in road maintenance, we still face considerable challenges, particularly with bridges.
According to the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City, Missouri is nearly $2 billion dollars behind in bridge and road repairs. The state transportation department already repairs or replaces 90 bridges per year, and there are nearly 900 more bridges awaiting refurbishment.
Increases to truck sizes would only worsen this problem.
Drivers already crowded out by large semis dominating the lanes would need to account for bigger and heavier trucks that take longer to come to a complete stop in heavy traffic. The U.S. Department of Transportation found that heavier trucks have crash rates that are “consistently higher” than smaller trucks.
On the issue of truck length — something the truck and shipping groups also seek to raise — the federal department found that longer double trailer trucks require an additional 22 feet to stop than twin trailer trucks currently in use. They also have a higher fatality rate.
Proponents of truck increases are offering a data collection program as means for getting past the concerns of Americans. The new, larger trucks would contain data collection software providing state governments with well … data, making everyday drivers guinea pigs in a real-world testing lab.
The real question should be: How do we modernize revenue collection systems to ensure that trucking companies — which already pay a lot in taxes — cover the full cost of the damage they inflict on infrastructure?
Drew Johnson, senior fellow at the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, put it this way: “Until trucks pay for their fair share of infrastructure costs, it’s completely ridiculous to discuss allowing heavier trucks to do even more damage to our nation’s roads and bridges, while forcing hardworking taxpayers to pick up the tab.”
Proposals to increase semi hauling capacity would result in more damage to our roads and bridges, less space on the roads, lower levels of safety, higher fatalities and more trucks. Sounds like a horrible deal for Missourians.
Stacy Washington is a nationally-syndicated radio host and Emmy-nominated TV personality. She lives in suburban St. Louis County.