If proponents of raising truck size and weight limits were hoping that the issue would slide by without much scrutiny, Wednesday’s listening session on the truck size and weight study shot that hope out of the water.
A collection of truck drivers, state department of transportation employees, road engineers, law enforcement and safety advocacy groups dissected the issue top to bottom, highlighting countless challenges and problems with increasing the truck size and weight limits.
To add insult to injury, the listening session happened only days after the Interstate 5 bridge in Washington state collapsed. The 60-year-old Skagit River Bridge carried 71,000 vehicles, including 6,500 commercial trucks, per day prior to a section collapsing on Thursday evening, May 23.
Brian Taylor, communications coordinator for the Muskingum County Engineer’s Office in Zanesville, OH, underscored the concerns over increasing the demand on his state’s bridges. He relayed statistics on Ohio’s bridges that were recently presented at the County Engineer’s Association of Ohio board meeting in April.
He explained that in Ohio, municipalities and counties maintain 68 percent of Ohio’s bridge infrastructure. Townships, counties and municipalities maintain 83 percent of road mileage in Ohio. The locals struggle every day with trucks pushing the current weight limits established on the aged bridge infrastructure.
“Ohio county engineers will have spent $40 million on bridge load ratings, and it will have to be completed all over again with new classifications and limits,” Taylor shared in the webinar portion of the listening session.
When it came to a safety aspect, many of the commenters pointed to a shortage of data on the safety of heavier trucks.
In Arkansas, for example, a disabled vehicle and its contents are not weighed after a wreck and it is not noted on the crash reports.
One individual, who is a forensic engineer who re-creates truck crashes, advocated passionately to reduce truck weights in his home state.
“As a forensic engineer who has reconstructed many overweight truck crashes in Appalachia, I want you to know that we desperately need to lower weights because of our long, steep grades, not increase them,” Roy Crawford submitted through the webinar portion of the listening session.
That dynamic was summed up nicely by one contributor who pointed out that what may be safe in one state would not necessarily be safe in another depending on geography and traffic volume levels of each state.
Doug Morris, OOIDA’s director of security operations, noted that an occupant kinematics analysis of crashes would be beneficial in the study, hinting that the possibility of surviving a crash in a vehicle with a heavier load could be reduced.
Still time to comment
While the concerns about truck size and weight are more far-reaching than just infrastructure and highway safety, the Federal Highway Administration’s team that is preparing to conduct the comprehensive study wants to hear it all.
The listening session information collection phase will continue through June 5. You can submit comments, insights and suggestions as to areas the study should explore here.
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