Increasing truck weights has a number of trade-offs

Posted July 08, 2009, at 6:35 p.m.

As a safety advocate for the trucking industry and a tractor-trailer driver with almost 30 years of seat time I would like to address the editorial “Truck Weight Compromise” (BDN, June 26).

It states: “For far too long, trucks that weigh between 80,000 and 100,000 pounds are forced to leave the interstate north of Augusta and travel local highways, and even through downtown Bangor, for destination points east and north. The rule works just fine in protecting the hefty federal investment in the interstate highway system — less damage to the road surface. But it works far less well for Maine’s secondary and tertiary roads. Those heavy trucks trying to negotiate stop signs and right-angle turns is clearly a safety threat to pedestrians and drivers of passenger vehicles.”

These trucks are forced to leave the interstate at this point because the federal government controls the weight of vehicles after they leave the state-supported (toll) section of the Maine Turnpike. In the government’s wisdom, based upon study after study, increased truck weights are proportional to decreased truck safety and in-creased wear and tear on the infrastructure.

That these overweight trucks must continue their journey through the streets of Bangor is only due to the fact that the state of Maine and local governments have seen fit to allow these overweight vehicles access to these roads. The resulting savings to the federal government in repairs is offset at the local level by the cost of maintaining these local roads. I am left with the question: Why then do these local governments permit overweight trucks on their roads? If they would lower the limit to comply with the 80,000-pound federal limit the problem would be solved.

The statement “Those heavy trucks trying to negotiate stop signs and right-angle turns is clearly a safety threat to pedestrians and drivers of passenger vehicles” is right on.

Referring to the one-year pilot project proposed by Sen. Susan Collins, the editorial asks, “And less quantifiable, but also important, do businesses benefit from having goods move to and from markets more quickly by using the interstate highway system?”

Of course they do. But I submit that the question is a smoke screen asked to confuse the issue. By increasing the weight each truck is allowed to haul you decrease the number of trucks and drivers needed to haul the same weight of freight, thus affecting the employment rate in the state. This may be a classic definition of effi-cient, but with one major exception.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “efficient” as “Acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort.” The term “expense,” herein used, is bifurcated. Under a proposed increase in the weight limit, the expense to the hauling company is surely reduced while the expense to the tax-payers of the state of Maine is just as surely increased, to say nothing of the safety issues.

This brings me to the editorial’s closing statement: “Sen. Collins and others should continue to work to convince federal officials that safety and efficiency support this change.”

On the safety side, lower the maximum allowable weights on Maine’s secondary roads to agree with at least the maximum set forth by the federal government: 80,000 pounds.

On the efficiency side, if the taxpayers of Maine are considered, perhaps lower the weight limit on secondary roads to less than 80,000 pounds to assure the trucks stay where they belong — on the interstate, for the maximum efficient distance before exiting to deliver.

Guy Bourrie of Washington is a tractor-trailer driver.

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