Truck weight reform coincides with safety improvement in Maine

Could a program to increase maximum loads lead to fewer truck-related fatalities? Such a cause-and-effect connection would run contrary to a key argument made by those who oppose heavier rigs on public highways, so groups on each side of the debate are doing the math and trying to figure out what is going on in Maine.

Specifically, a state highway-safety official was quoted as at least partially crediting Maine’s 70-year low in highway fatalities to a specific reform of truck-weight rules, and that’s welcome news to the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), a group lobbying to increase the federal vehicle weight limit on interstate highways.

Maine incurred 131 highway fatalities in 2014, the fewest since 119 such deaths occurred in 1944, when wartime fuel and tire ration was in effect, reports Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. The state recorded 154 fatal accidents in 2012 and 136 in 2011.

James Tanner, fatal accident system analyst for the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, said that one factor that “may have helped to make roads safer” is the Congressional provision that authorizes operating tractor-trailers with six axles rated up to 100,000-lbs GCW on all interstate highways in Maine for 20 years, according to a report from the Bangor Daily News.

The weight-reform measure, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and supported by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was worked into the federal transportation bill passed by Congress in late 2011. The 20-year deal also applies to Vermont.

For its part, CTP contends that “more states could experience the same improvements in safety and efficiency under the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA).” 

That legislation, which has been pending before Congress for some time now, would grant each state the option to open all or portions of its interstate highways to heavier trucks that are equipped with six axles.

Fleet Owner Executive Editor David Cullen’s full story is here.

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