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Proposed law to increase the freight limit on commercial trucks

Written by Steve Gursten Posted April 2nd, 2013

Safe and Efficient Transportation Act seeks to increase the tonnage transport to 97,000 pounds, despite current safety concerns on weight of semi-trucks

There’s currently proposed legislation before Congress, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), which would allow states to raise the interstate weight limits of transport trucks to a maximum of 97,000 pounds.

Ironically, the “Safe” and Efficient Transportation Act is not safe at all.  In fact, it’s very dangerous. In practice, it would make an already volatile situation even more explosive.

Truck accidents account for more than  5,000 deaths per year in the U.S.  Making semi-trucks heavier, and harder to operate, will only exacerbate the dangers of transport trucks on the road.

Currently, the weight limit is capped at 80,000 pounds.

The SETA legislation proposes to raise that limit by over 20 percent.

The proposed changes would only apply to six axle trucks; five axle trucks would still be limited to the current weight.  The increase would be at each state’s discretion.

The legislation is hotly contested.  As experienced truck accident attorneys, we have seen the horrific consequences of  80,000 pound trucks.  It is already extremely dangerous.  Adding an additional 17,000 pounds only makes  trucks even more dangerous.

But the group that feels strongest about this proposed weight limit increase isn’t the attorneys who litigate these cases. It is the truck drivers.  Driving an 80,000 pound truck is difficult to safely drive, even for the most careful and professional truck drivers.  A bigger, heavier truck makes the task even harder.

Congressman Herb Kohl (whose term just ended this past January) was among the bill’s most zealous supporters.  Kohl tried to appeal to the public by pointing out that increasing the weight capacity would lead to lower energy costs;  cheaper gasoline.  Naturally, large shipping companies and truck companies have generally supported the proposal. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has also been a staunch supporter.

The trucking organization estimates that the industry will haul 30 percent more tonnage in 2021 than it does today. It argues that this increased tonnage will trigger an increase in trucks on the road.  To avoid increasing the amount of trucks on the road, the ATA suggests that raising the weight limit is a preferable option.

The glaring problem with the ATA’s assertion is that it fails to recognize that heavier trucks are an equally, if not more dangerous, “solution.”

Luckily, there are groups and individuals courageous enough to fight against this reckless legislation.  Central in the fight to keep this legislation off the books is the American Automobile Association (AAA).  AAA sent a very vocal letter to Congress imploring them to reject the House Bill.  Numerous other groups and organizations, our truck accident attorneys counted among them, oppose the increase.

This is a proverbial “no brainer.”  At a time when dangerous truck drivers are cutting corners on safety and killing people, when one in five trucks on the roads today are already out of service because of dangerous problems with brakes and steering and tires, making these trucks even more dangerous  makes zero sense.

Heavy trucks are dangerous because they can experience trouble braking, steering, and in an emergency situation where the truck may have to swerve to avoid danger, there is a very high probability the weight will cause the truck driver to lose control.  Adding weight only adds momentum and increases the force of impacts. These heavier trucks would also have an adverse effect on America’s aging infrastructure.

In sum: Larger trucks pose larger safety risks for all of us.

If you can, please write your Congressperson and ask him or her to oppose this legislation.  Let’s take steps to make our highways safer; or at the very least, to keep them from becoming more perilous.

For more information about this proposed legislation please see this news release from the Coalition for Transportation Productivity.

 

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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