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Lawmakers debate allowing bigger trucks to carry heavier loads on Indiana roadways

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 19:53:41-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Heavier trucks could soon be allowed on Indiana roadways.

State legislators continue to debate this week whether to allow overweight trucks to carrying 120,000 pounds or not. Right now, the federal weight limit is 80,000 pounds.

“This is ridiculous. I’m frustrated,” Pam Biddle said.

Biddle knows the pain of losing someone in a devastating car crash. Her son, Aaron, a student at Purdue, was killed when a semi hit the car he was in at 70 miles per hour.

“How many people need to speak up?” Biddle asked. “What’s the body count got to be? What’s the body count got to be?”

Over the past month, lawmakers have debated whether to allow trucks to carry more weight on Indiana roadways.

“As I reflect on my career in taking care of patients, I rarely saw an individual injured in a truck-related crash. Why? Because they died at the scene,” Dr. Stephen Hargarten, Medical College of Wisconsin Emergency Medicine Professor, said. “And so I really think this approach has significant dire consequences for the population of Indiana.”

Proponents for increasing the maximum weight to 120,000 pounds from 80,000 argue it will make traveling more efficient and boost the state’s commerce, while others fear safety risks.

“Why speak out is, I’ve seen the devastating consequences of this energy exchange in my career as an emergency physician and it’s really devastating to the families,” Hargarten said.

“Safety advocates, victims, state police, everybody has come out against this bill,” Biddle added. “The only ones that are in support of this bill are the shippers and receivers and it’s because they are going to make money.”

Indiana Motor Truck Association president Gary Langston said there’s no clear data that shows loads at 120,000 pounds are involved in more crashes than trucks carrying 80,000. In 2014, the state legislature voted to allow only three industries — steel, agricultural products and paper — to obtain permits to carry the overweight load up to 120,000 pounds. All the new bill does, Langston argued, is opens the permit to all industries, leveling the playing field.

“Oh my gosh there’s gonna be so many more trucks on the road if that happens, and we don’t know that,” Langston said. “If trucks could haul more weight, I could just as logically say that’s less trucks. Less trucks is less fuel, less equipment, less congestion and less accidents.”

Another concern remains road conditions and what the increased weight will do to them. The proposal provides an annual cap for permits issued, and permit holders would be restricted to specific routes, avoiding certain local roads. Plus, it would increase the cost for an overweight permit from $20 to $350 dollars annually to help pay for the extra wear and tear on state roads. But even with these additional measures, Biddle said, it doesn’t equate to the cost of a human life.

“It’s not going to cover the cost of even one severely permanently injured victim and the medical care that is going to have to be provided to them by the state of Indiana for the rest of their life.”

The state representative who authored the bill released the following statement:

"Every state bordering Indiana provides permits allowing more weight to be transported in one load. When these trucks cross into our state and before moving ahead on their routes, drivers must split their loads in order to meet current standards outlined in law. This causes more trucks and congestion on our roads and slows down the supply chain. This legislation is a fair and balanced approach to allow for a moderate expansion of overweight permitting, and aligns Indiana with surrounding states. It will also eliminate more trips that trucks would have to take throughout the state."

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