Action Alert

June 12, 2003   

 Urgent! Bill before Congress could halt coal truck weight increase in West Virginia.


Write Senator Rockefeller and urge him to support

Senate bill 1140, the “Safe Highways and Infrastructure

Preservation Act.”


S.1140 would:

·       Extend the 80,000-pound truck weight limit on interstates to the entire 156,000-mile National Highway System (NHS).

·       Cap the length of truck trailers to 53 feet.

·       Extend the current freeze of longer combination vehicles (LCV’s) – long double and triple trailer trucks – to the entire National Highway System (NHS).

·       Freeze grandfather claims and close loopholes that allow trucks to operate at weights exceeding federal limits.

·       Provided guidelines to strengthen weight enforcement, by requiring the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to develop a model fine schedule designed to recover, as fully as possible, all costs of overweight operations and to act as an effective deterrent.


Specific sections of highway where higher limits are already permitted would be exempt from the weight limit freeze in S.1140, however this exemption applies only to existing weight exemptions that were in legal operation as of June 1, 2003.  This could keep West Virginia from legally allowing heavier coal trucks on our roads.  The West Virginia legislature passed SB 583 during the 2003 regular session, establishing a coal resource transportation system to allow trucks hauling coal to carry up to 126,000 pounds.  SB 583 is to go into effect on July 1, 2003.


Senator Rockefeller serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which will be considering this legislation on Thursday, June 19.  Please write and fax (or e-mail) a letter to Senator Rockefeller today and ask him to oppose increased coal truck weights.


Address your letter to:          The Honorable John D. Rockefeller

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510


Fax your letter to (202) 224-7665 or e-mail


The Problem with Heavier Trucks


Heavier trucks pose unacceptable safety risks.


  • Heavier trucks will have braking problems. In trucks whose brakes are not properly adjusted, stopping distances increase with truck weight. Heavier trucks are more likely to suffer brake failure and runaway crashes.  Roadside inspections have found that 25% or more of trucks on the road today have brakes that are dangerously out of adjustment.


  • Even going uphill, heavy trucks are dangerous.  Because they are forced to slow down, the extreme speed differential between them and passenger cars increases the likelihood of collisions.


  • Heavier trucks will tend to have a higher center of gravity because the extra weight is typically stacked vertically.  Raising the center of gravity increases the risk of rollovers.


·        According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), there is a strong statistical link between higher weights and a greater risk of fatalities. As weights up from 65,000 to 80,000 pounds, the risk of an accident involving a fatality goes up 50% (US DOT Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, Phase I, Working Paper 1 &2, 1997, p. 37).


Heavier trucks tear up our roads and bridges and taxpayers foot the bill


·        Raising truck weights threatens our bridges, many of which are already in bad shape and in need of repair. Nearly 25% of our bridges in West Virginia are structurally deficient or structurally obsolete (US DOT National Bridge Inventory, 2000 data).


·        A 2002 study on coal transport released by the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) estimated it would cost a minimum of $2.8 billion dollars to upgrade and repair 2,684 miles of coal haul roads to minimum federal standards.


·        Allowing bigger trucks will worsen an already severe problem with deteriorating crowded highways.  According to the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) “2002 Status Report of the Nation’s Surface Transportation System,” $1.518 trillion will be required over the next twenty years just to maintain the existing condition of our roads and bridges.  Changes in trucks size and weight policy could have a major impact on pavement quality and performance, accelerating damage to our roads and bridges and driving those costs even higher.


·        The USDOT “Highway Cost Allocation Study” found that bigger trucks do not pay their fair share of highway maintenance costs.  A 90,000-pound six-axle tractor trailer truck covers only 60% of its costs, while a 100,000-pound six-axle tractor trailer truck pays 40%.

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