What does the Panama Canal have to do with the weight limits of commercial trucks in Texas? According to recent news, everything. It is being reported that Texas is soon going to be allowing for an increased weight limit in freight trucks on the state's highways because of a plan to expand the Panama Canal. Officials in the State of Texas are asking federal regulators to approve of these new weight limits that will increase the maximum weight load for six-axle trucks from 80,000 to 97,000lbs. Technically, this is already allowed, but only if drivers carrying oversized and overweight loads pay an additional fee to do so. This law, if approved, would make it standard.
The plan is, starting in August of 2014, larger cargo ships will be allowed to travel through the Panama Canal, which is creating an excess of product that needs to be moved out of port. Texas officials see larger truck loads as the solution, particularly on Interstate 45 and Loop 9. The last time the canal saw a change of this magnitude was in 1914. Currently, ships that are up to 106 feet wide, 965 feet long and 39 feet deep can travel through it. After the expansion project is over, these dimensions will have expanded to 161 feet wide, 1,200 feet long and 49 feet deep. With the cargo ship load size almost tripling, many see heavier truck load sizes as the answer. The Dallas County Judge is hoping to roll out a test project before actually integrating these larger trucks on state highways, but this may not happen.
The heavier a truck is, the longer it will take to brake. This poses a serious safety risk in the event of an emergency. On top of this potential risk, many critics are reminding lawmakers that Texas' roads are already crumbling, and that heavier trucks wouldn't do anything to help this situation. This is coming from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Texas is one of the most dangerous states for drivers. This is especially true in areas close to large Gulf Coast ports such as the Port of Houston and the Port of Texas City. Although the transportation industry is vital to the United States' economy, it is by no means an excuse to ignore safety regulations. Lawmakers should consider the costs before implementing new rules that could put our citizens at risk.
For years, Arnold & Itkin LLP has been passionate about defending the rights of those injured in accidents caused by large commercial trucks. This is a necessary, but dangerous industry that causes a large majority of overall motor vehicles accidents per year.