Weight limit could be raised for big rigs on Texas roads

TxDOT wants to bring back the truck toll discount program, to ease traffic on I-35.

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — For the eighth time in as many years, lawmakers will be considering increasing the weight of tractor trailers on Texas roadways. Currently, the weight limit is 80,000 pounds. The proposal would allow the rigs to weigh up to 97,000 pounds.

In comparison, experts say the average car weighs between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds.

Several trucking and manufacturing companies have come out in support of the increase, but truck drivers we spoke with say they are against it.

“I think it’s unsafe,” said one driver. “If we have more weight, it will take us longer to slow down and stop quickly.”

“I think it’s about dollars and cents,” Another driver added. “There will be a lot of resistance against this by the motoring public.”

Those who oppose say it would be more dangerous. However, those who support heavier trucks say it would reduce traffic. This debate has been renewed for the past eight years, and no decision is expected for several months.

One local sheriff reached out to lawmakers asking them not to allow the increase.

“The increase in weight limits of semi-trucks from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds on the National Highway System will create a safety risk for the motorist and will further damage our infrastructure,” Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering said in a letter. “With two major highways in Bastrop County being a primary thoroughfare between Austin and Houston the increases would have a significant impact on our community.”

In Depth

Right now, the Federal Government has authority over Interstate weight limits. States oversee everything else and often set higher max weights for state highways than the federal interstate limits.

Darrin Roth, the Director of Highway Operations for the American Trucking Associations tells us increasing the max weight will actually get trucks off smaller state roads and onto Interstates, which were built for heavy cargo.
Roth also says the trucks will be just as safe. The current federal maximum weight is 80-thousand pounds on trucks with 5 axles. Under the proposed rules, trucks could carry 97,000 pounds, but they’d need a 6th axle which adds breaking capacity that can make the heavier truck stop just as fast.

Digging deeper on the topic, in addition questions about safety, heavier trucks could end up costing all of us more — in road maintenance costs.

Last summer, lawmakers approved giving more taxpayer dollars to TxDOT so they can repair roads torn up by trucks in the oil and natural gas boom. But in February, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst told KXAN’s Robert Hadlock there needs to be a long-term solution.

“We’ve got to stop doing what we’ve been doing,” he said. “we’re spending way too much money on maintenance because we’re tearing up highways. We’re letting overweight trucks, right after we built a brand new highway…we spent billions of dollars. run over weight for just a few
dollars in tolls and is tearing up our roadways.”

You will play a role too. This Fall, voters could approve taking a billion dollars out of the rainy day fund to pay for new road construction.

Heavy trucks aren’t the only big rig problem, in Central Texas we’ve had problems with a few tall trucks.

Last July, a truck carrying a forklift slammed into the Stassney Lane Bridge sending debris onto the highway and shutting down traffic.

TXDOT told us today they haven’t heard about any recent cases like this, but that sometimes truckers may scrape on the bottom of the bridge and never report it.

Since 1995, trucks hit bridges six times in Central Texas.

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