Every year, multiple studies and surveys reaffirm that weight loss is the most popular New Year’s resolution. Workers in the transportation industry can attest that this goal needn’t be limited to humans.

Overweight trucks continue to roam the roads and highways across America, jeopardizing other vehicles on the road and ensuring higher infrastructure costs for taxpayers down the road. For example, in January 2020, Indiana State Police cited a semitruck driver for driving a vehicle more than 96,000 pounds overweight. But if some state lawmakers are successful, the current weight limit for commercial vehicles in Indiana may soon increase from 80,000 pounds to 120,000 pounds.

Relaxing the current guardrails would crumble the Hoosier State’s top-rated infrastructure and compromise auto safety across the state. Indiana should slam the brakes on these proposed changes.

Currently, Indiana gets the best roads in the country for a bargain. According to data from the National Association of State Budget Officers, Indiana spent a paltry $2.2 billion on transportation expenses in fiscal year 2017. Compared to somewhat near-neighbor Wisconsin, which has a smaller population, Wisconsin manages to spend $500 million more per year on maintaining its infrastructure. Also, Indiana has 1 million more residents than Minnesota, yet still manages to spend $1 billion less than the land of 10,000 lakes. 

But a growing chorus of policymakers and talking heads is pushing for the state to revisit its current weight limits on trucks. Currently, Indiana allows trucks on its roads weighing up to 80,000 pounds, which matches federal regulations. But a bill currently under consideration in the Indiana House of Representatives has language that would effectively increase this haul by 50 percent. Should this language become law, Indiana may need an exemption from current federal standards on roadworthiness.

But even if Indiana can get the federal government’s blessing, it would be unwise to allow heavier trucks. To see why, Hoosiers needn’t look further than their northern neighbor, Michigan. The state currently has the highest allowable truck weights in the country with the beleaguered state paying dearly for the privilege. 

Lv15, which creates HD maps for self-driving cars, examined the roads of different states using more than 15 million pictures taken by iPhone dash cam apps determined that Michigan has some the nation’s worst roads. The study was able to rule out regional factors, such as rough winters, being behind Michigan’s malaise. States such as Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa have rough winters on par with Michigan’s, yet their roads are in far better shape. Lv15’s analysis also ruled out factors such as state construction and gasoline tax rates as culprits.

Attributing blame for infrastructural issues is hardly a science. But the science is clear about the impact of vehicle weight on road quality. Judith Corley-Lay, the chief pavement management engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, studied the issue at the request of state lawmakers over a decade ago and found overweight trucks cost her state $78 million per year in added taxpayer costs. Corley-Lay states the obvious: “If you have to treat a road in five years instead of eight, or in eight years instead of 12, there’s a real cost impact.” The Government Accountability Office similarly confirmed that gravity works, finding more than twenty years ago that the road damage caused by one 18-wheeler is equivalent to 9,600 cars.

Clearly, increasing truck weight limits is a raw deal for Indiana taxpayers and drivers. Lawmakers should steer clear of misguided transportation proposals driven by flawed logic. Now is not the time to further fatten overweight vehicles.

Ross Marchand is a senior fellow for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}