As Congress considers new spending on infrastructure projects in 2019, trucking and transportation companies are looking to convince legislators to approve more relaxed rules that would allow shippers to haul heavier loads and longer trailers on their trucks.
A number of American shipping companies, including UPS, FedEx, and Amazon formed an advocacy group with a wholesome sounding name called Americans for Modern Transportation that is actively seeking to influence Congress to allow trucks to start pulling two, connected 33-foot trailers, adding 10 feet to what the current law allows. The shipping companies argue that longer trucks would reduce the number of trucks on the road and would allow companies to better meet online shopping demand.
With people buying more things online, online shopping is rapidly overtaking brick and mortar retail sales. This begs the question that even if current shipping demands could be met by by fewer trucks with longer trailers, as demand in e-commerce inevitably increases, won’t the number of huge trucks on the road also go up? Shippers certainly aren’t looking to ship less.
Even if we imagine that these new rules would result in fewer big-rigs on the highway, longer trailers would mean heavier trucks. The increase would be measured in tons. This would also lengthen the stopping time for drivers carrying such massive cargo. Since it takes more time and distance to stop a heavier vehicle, commercial drivers would need more space on the road to operate safely.
Current rules limit truck weights to 80,000 pounds. Trucking companies want this number raised by over 5 tons to allow hauling up to 91,000 pounds. As for the trailers carried by trucks, industry advocates want to increase their length by five feet. With two, connected trailers this ads 10 feet to vehicles that are already on the road making already massive big-rigs even bigger.
Congress already rejected a similar industry proposal back in 2015. One main concern is the damage that an increase of over 5 tons per truck might cause to our already deteriorating roads and bridges.
Illinois, like the rest of the country is dealing with an aging infrastructure problem that needs to be addressed. Just recently a cracked bridge shut down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Federal authorities said the bridge did not meet minimum national standards for new bridges, and the Federal Highway Administration called it “obsolete.”
The Briggs Street bridge that runs over I-80 in Joliet is causing concerned residents to plead to local authorities to replace it before a proposed truck stop is built right next to it.
An inspection of the bridge showed that it is in even worse condition than the partially collapsed Lake Shore Drive bridge. A truck stop there would only add more pressure, wear, and tear to an already failing bridge. Adding longer and heavier trucks to the mix could be a recipe for disaster.
Congress should consider the real impact these shipping industry proposed rules would have on people’s lives not only in the inevitable increased travel times for passenger vehicles trying to navigate around these new super trucks, but even more importantly the concern for public safety that arises. A paramount concern should be that these vehicles have safe roads and bridges to travel over. Let’s fix the roads first and then talk about bigger rigs to fill our Amazon orders.