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Dallas deputies doubt wisdom of heavier trucks on state roads

Here are some documented facts about big rig trucks courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Because of their size, it takes them longer to stop than most other vehicles on the road. Because of their weight, even empty, they tend to cause greater damage when they are involved in crashes.

Perhaps more significantly, according to the federal government's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of people killed in collisions involving large trucks was 14 percent higher in 2013 compared to 2009. So it seems fair to ask whether it's a good idea for us to be thinking about increasing sizes of some trucks and how much trucks can carry.

Federal rules currently limit single-trailer truck weights to 80,000 pounds. Some in the trucking industry want that to be raised to 90,000 pounds. They say that, and increasing the lengths of some rigs would reduce the overall number of trucks on the road and make driving safer.

As lawmakers in Congress debate the merits of the proposals, some Dallas County Sheriff's Office officials are weighing in against making the changes. They question whether bigger trucks alone will actually reduce traffic in the long run. Volume will increase to match demand, they argue.

As for increasing the weight -- they draw on physics. Heavier trucks mean more energy going into a crash and more danger to motorists. They also note that weight causes more damage to road surfaces. Potholes develop and that raises the risk of accidents. So raising the weight limits will likely make decaying infrastructure issues worse.

Regardless of the opinions, the implication of any congressional action is something we will have to deal with.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Large trucks," accessed Oct. 14, 2015

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