Excessive Truck Weight:

An Expensive Burden We Can No Longer Support

CED-79-94: Published: Jul 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1979.

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The Nation's highways are deteriorating at an accelerated pace and sufficient funds are not available to cope with current needs or meet future requirements. Excess truck weight is one cause that can be controlled. By strictly enforcing their weight laws, states could virtually eliminate the damage being caused by overweight trucks. While controlling truck weights will not eliminate highway deterioration, applying federal weight limits to all trucks on federal-aid highways could substantially reduce this deterioration.

National statistics show that at least 22 percent of all loaded tractor-trailers exceed state weight limits. This percentage is even higher for other types of large trucks. Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) supported the 1975 increased federal weight limits, it has no program sufficient to offset related increased costs to preserve the quality of the highways. While the 1975 weight increases were made to save fuel for heavy trucks, all vehicles use more fuel on deteriorated roads, heavier trucks use more fuel, and additional highway repairs require more fuel. DOT has not determined whether there has been an overall fuel saving since the higher limits were allowed. A good weight enforcement program requires effective enforcement techniques, stringent penalties, and adequate staff and funds. States need standards to evaluate their program to enforce weight limits that will enable them to identify problems and reliable alternative solutions.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend highway legislation to make Federal weight limits also apply to noninterstate Federal-aid highways in all states; terminate current exceptions in Federal law that allow higher limits on some interstate highways; and prohibit overweight permits and exemptions when loads can be reduced to meet normal state weight limits.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DOT should include the following in the weight limit study: determine the net fuel consumption resulting from the impact of heavier truck weights; identify the economic effect of changes in weight laws, the cost and benefits, who will pay the costs, and who will receive the benefits; and determine the impact of any weight limit change on the current highway user tax structure and what changes may be needed to assure equitable allocation of costs. The Secretary should direct the Adminstrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to: establish criteria for evaluating weight enforcement certifications and programs that will assure as much uniformity as practical; develop, in coordination with each state, a long-range plan for improving enforcement programs; include in the state model program those state enforcement elements that constitute an effective legal framework to provide viable alternatives to apprehend violators and deter overweight operations; establish a permanent national weight enforcement operating group within the FHA to administer the certification requirement and act as a focal point for gathering and disseminating information; and develop criteria for using Federal funds to construct permanent scales to insure effective placement and operation of these facilities.

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