The trend towards heavier cars is only being perpetuated by the approach of electric vehicles. But car haulers are already pushing the weight limits set by the government, and the trucking industry says something’s got to give. Critics, though, argue that increasing weight limits makes roads more dangerous and wears infrastructure out faster.
Individual tractor trailers are currently restricted to an 80,000 lbs (36,287 kg) gross weight, a limit that was set in 1975. If that doesn’t change, the industry says, it will lead to further supply line disruptions once EVs arrive.
“The truth is we will not be able to move as many electric vehicles under the current weight limit,” Sarah Amico, the executive chairman of Jack Cooper, one of North America’s biggest car hauling companies, told Reuters. “That could mean more trucks on the road, delays in orders, and increased costs.”
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As a result, car haulers have been lobbying the government to raise the federal gross vehicle weight limit up from 80,000 lbs to 88,000 lbs (36,287 kg to 39,916 kg). This, they say, would allow them to make up for the weight added by the battery packs in EVs, which tend to make them weigh about 1,000 to 1,600 lbs (453-725 kg) more than their internal combustion counterparts, and move the same number of vehicles.
Safety advocates and the rail industry, though, argue that raising weight limits would make America’s roads appreciably more dangerous. They claim that car haulers are just trying to leverage a political situation to push for something they say motorists oppose.
“With any incremental change comes incremental danger, and that results in more fatalities,” Cathy Chase, the president of Advocates for Highways and Auto Safety, said. Indeed, U.S. traffic fatalities have increased through the pandemic and heavier trailers are harder to stop and roll over more easily.
The increasing weight of automobiles is by no means a recent phenomenon, either. American roads have been steadily subjected to heavier loads as, over the last 40 years, vehicle weights have risen from 3,200 lbs to 4,200 lbs (1,451 to 1,905 kg).
Despite that, California has moved to temporarily increase some weight limits for trucks in order to help alleviate supply chain troubles at its ports and rail yards. Rodney Davis, a Republican federal lawmaker from Illinois who serves on the House Transportation Committee, says he’s working to increase weight limits. Despite that, Congressional committees overseeing transportation have not yet taken a position on the issue.