Changes to the weight regulations for tractor-trailers are expected to be debated by legislators and transportation officials and could lead to looser restrictions on weight limits for these commercial trucks.
The current proposal being advocated by some in the trucking industry is to raise the weight limit from the current 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds, an increase of more than 20 percent.
The weight restrictions exist as a safety measure to limit the amount of damage done in the event of a commercial truck accident. These vehicles are massive and, while many drivers are very skilled and accident-free, mistakes do happen. Anytime a tractor-trailer driver loses control on a highway, the potential for extensive damage and injuries exists. Tests have shown that it takes anywhere from 250 to 450 feet of hard braking for a truck driver to stop a fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 m.p.h., depending on reaction time and the condition of the brake pads.
Those advocating a higher weight limit say that while safety is of the utmost importance, the current regulations are too restrictive, especially for this economy. If trucks could carry more, companies would be more profitable. You could also see fewer trucks on the road if each individual vehicle could carry a heavier load.
Opponents to the rule change point to a number of high-profile tractor-trailer crashes and the deaths and injuries caused by truck accidents. One such incident took place in St. Louis two years ago when a tractor-trailer driver, who had become distracted by his cell phone, plowed through a line of ten cars near a construction zone before finally coming to a stop. Had the truck been carrying more weight, it would have taken longer to stop and more passenger cars would have been crushed.