Should Trucks Haul More Than 80,000 Lbs?


Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Many young children in America believe holiday season deliveries are made by sleigh and reindeer, and that is a nice fantasy indeed. But for readers of Class A Drivers, we know that truck drivers are the hard workers behind almost every delivery in the country.

Unfortunately, with supply chain challenges and a new variant of COVID, deliveries continue to be delayed. And this looks to continue into the winter season as American consumers turn to online shopping for their preferred method of shopping.

One governor wants to improve delivery times by increasing delivery capacity. Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina has issued an executive order that would suspend weight limits and allow all trucks to weigh 90,000 lbs, regardless of road.

Weight Limit vs Wait Limits: Will 90,000 lbs Speed Up Deliveries?

Typically, tractor-trailers are allowed to haul enough freight that raises their total gross weight to 80,000 lbs on Interstate highways. This includes both the vehicle and the freight.

It seems obvious that trucks carrying additional freight could alleviate delays, but this comes with trade-offs, mostly in the safety of the driver and the surrounding passengers.

Additional weight makes it more difficult for drivers to make smooth lane changes, avoid road obstacles, or navigate varying speeds of traffic on the highway. 80,000 lbs has long been considered the sweet spot for the most amount of freight for the most amount of safety.

If drivers accept additional freight, this comes with a trade in the maneuverability of their vehicle and their ability to react quickly while driving. If the weight limit is increased to 90,000 lbs by political decree, any trucking companies and owner-operators that wish to compete will also have to carry the same weight.

Truck drivers may wish to organize and request additional studies be done regarding various types of trailers and the weight limits.

Past Weight Discussion – Competition?

The current discussion around weight limits echo a previous effort to raise the weight limits a few years ago.

In response to that effort, the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) sent a letter to Congress opposing the weight raise. The previous weight increase to 91,000 lbs was tied to adding a sixth axle to the vehicle. And again, the spectre of competition raised its head.

If other trucks were permitted to add an axle and additional weight, then all other trucking companies and truck drivers would be forced to upgrade their equipment or they would be forced out of the market. Such upgrades could cost upwards of $5,000 and increase other maintenance costs, such as tires and brakes.

Increasing Weight Not the Only Answer

Raising the allowable weight for a tractor-trailer to 90,000 isn’t the only solution to the supply chain challenges, of course, but each issue raises its own counterpoints.

Other potential solutions include extending the Hours of Service regulations, allowing younger commercial drivers to haul freight interstate to increase the labor pool, and repealing various COVID vaccine mandates. A selection of Republican governors signed the Operation Open Roads letter, demanding such measures be taken.