ROADS/BRIDGES: U.S. DOT’s truck weight study put on year’s delay

Move is seen as a reaction to the highway funding challenge ahead

December 01, 2014

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced in an email notice delivered today that it will be delaying the delivery of its promised study of the truck size and weight issue in national transportation until 2015. The study was planned as a comprehensive examination of some of the more controversial issues surrounding truck sizes and weight, including but not limited to trucking companies’ insistence that present size and weight restrictions are out of date and safety advocates’ concerns over what increasing weight allowance on public roadways would mean to measuring safety risk.

In the email, the DOT stated—or perhaps understated—that it recognizes “many people, including Congress, are eagerly awaiting the release of the report.” The message went on to qualify the study delay. “However, the department is committed to producing the most objective, data-driven report possible. Based on the current status and the scope and importance of the task at hand, we have had to delay completion of the study until 2015.”

The study was intended to inform the burgeoning Congressional discussions toward a new highway bill—discussions that were likewise meant to occur this fall, but will not be delayed until next May, despite widespread concern that a mild winter could exhaust the existing federal cache of funds as early as March 1.

The 2012 highway bill had ordered the DOT to perform a comprehensive analysis to provide Congress the background to make an informed recommendation as regards truck size and weight regulations. The working study is being handled by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which is looking at the safety and economic implications of changing the federal limits.

The study will compare trucks operating at current size and weight limits to bigger and heavier trucks on the basis of crash rates and other safety risk factors, as well as the costs of effective enforcement, and the impact of the equipment on pavements and bridges. It also will look into the impact on truck-rail competition, a detail of notice since rail companies and operators are in vehement opposition to easing present truck restrictions for shipping and drayage. In its notice, the FHWA said that it is accepting comments on the work is has done thus far, which can be delivered via its website.