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Vermont Rail Action Network

Vermont Rail Action Network

Promoting the revitalization of Vermont's rail network for passengers and freight

American voters say they are overwhelmingly opposed to allowing bigger, heavier trucks on our nation’s highways, according to a national survey released today.  Conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), the survey found public opinion is strongly against proposals being pushed by some large trucking companies asking Congress to raise the national cap on truck size by 20 percent to 97,000 pounds from the current limit of 80,000 pounds with a similiar Vermont-only proposal being pushed by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

The survey found that voters “overwhelmingly and consistently oppose allowing bigger, heavier trucks on American highways,” with nearly three quarters, or 72 percent, of registered voters opposing such an increase, and half of those surveyed, 49 percent, said that they strongly opposed the idea.  The survey also found that the opposition stems from public concerns about the increased threat of accidents posed by heavier trucks, as well as increased highway damage, added traffic congestion and potential tax hikes to pay for highway damage.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) show that nationally, large trucks have a fatal crash rate nearly 40 percent higher than cars. Additionally, bigger trucks are more likely to roll over, and that the additional 20 percent increase in weight would cause more wear and tear on brakes, suspension and tires. These considerations are part of the reason that truck drivers are also speaking out against proposals to allow bigger trucks.

 “It’s a hard enough job to maneuver 80,000 pounds and no one knows better than the men and women who drive trucks for a living that heavier trucks can reduce safety margins for themselves and other motorists.  Most want no part of increasing the weight limit, either as drivers or even as motorists sharing the road,” said Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

 “There remain significant unanswered questions regarding the balance between productivity, safety and impacts on infrastructure,” stated Chris Plaushin, AAA director of federal relations. “Until research can fully address these issues, AAA remains opposed to any federal increases in the current truck size and weight limits.”

 The U.S. DOT estimates that taxpayers already subsidize nearly $2 billion annually for large truck damage, and bigger trucks would make that worse. The most common truck on the road—an 80,000 pound five-axle single—pays just 80 percent of the maintenance costs it inflicts on roads, while a 97,000-pound six-axle single truck would pay for only half of its damage.

 “Bigger trucks would mean bigger taxpayer-funded bridge and road repair subsides which trucks have enjoyed for decades,” said Association of American Railroads spokesperson Patricia Reilly. “With all the pressure to trim federal and state transportation budgets, we need to put less – not more—pressure on taxpayers and our national transportation infrastructure.”

 Subsidizing trucks will mean a reduction in business for railroads -- particularly regional railroads like those in Vermont that also compete with trans-load trucking from nearby rail lines.

Proponents of bigger, heavier trucks argue that increasing truck size will mean less trucks on the road, but empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Past increases in truck size have not resulted in fewer trucks, fewer trips, or fewer miles traveled, and the number of trucks on U.S. highways has grown. A 2010 study commissioned by CABT concluded that raising truck weight from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds could actually result in 8 million additional truckloads on America’s highways. This increased gridlock only adds to the concerns opponents have about the safety of bigger trucks.

 

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