Michigan Roads, Truck Weights And The Science
There has been a debate in the state of Michigan concerning the weight of the trucks allowed on our roads and the damage that is caused by them.
In fact many say that Michigan has one of the worst truck-weight laws in the nation. Currently the state of Michigan allows trucks with a gross vehicle weight up to 164,000 pounds on our roads. Let us look at neighboring states as a comparison, Ohio and Indiana only allow trucks with a gross weight of 80,000 pounds or less, which is in line with federal regulations. Why is Michigan able to exceed federal regulations, this is due to "grandfather clauses" in the federal law.
Many people who do not bother to look at the science state that because of the 164,000 pound limit in Michigan our roads suffer worse than other states.
In fact during a recent MLive Citizen Roundtable in Grand Rapids Governor Whitmer stated:
I think that that is one other place where we are uniquely behind where the rest of the world is
Due to her belief she is open to lowering the weight limits of trucks here in the state of Michigan.
But let us step back a little and determine what the professionals and science has to say about truck weights and their corresponding damage to roads before we make a rash decision.
Yes Michigan’s 164,000-pound gross weight limit is more than double the federal standard of 80,000 pounds. But what you may not know is that a truck carrying 164,000 pounds in the state of Michigan must have 11 axles, each one of those axles cannot carry more than 13,000 pounds to operate in Michigan.
Now let us look at the federal regulations on weight limits of trucks. Under the federal regulations trucks that carry 80,000 pounds can carry 17,000 pounds on each of their four axles and 12,000 pounds on a steering axle.
Now that you know that you are probably more informed then most people in Michigan and it sounds like that would include our Governor.
Obviously you must look at the weight distributed to each axle and if people want our weight limits to be lowered to Federal standards then the amount of weight on each axle would be increased substantially and actually cause more harm to our roads.
If you do not believe me would you believe the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), they state:
Michigan permits trucks up to 164,000 pounds on the system. However, different than other states, Michigan requires a lower weight per axle which more evenly distributes the load and reduces wear and tear on roads. MDOT engineers have thoroughly studied this issue and the result of this research is that heavier trucks do not cause a disproportionate amount of damage as long as the weight is evenly distributed over an appropriate number of axles. Additionally, trucks over 80,000 pounds make up only less than 5% of all trucks operating on our roads. If Michigan were to reduce it's truck weight laws to 80,000 pounds, more damage to the system may occur because of the need to put more trucks on the road. More trucks on the road raise serious questions concerning safety and traffic congestion. Several other states are currently looking at Michigan's axle weight laws and are considering adopting similar laws.
So the key issue is not the total weight of the truck, but how much weight is carried by each axle. A truck weighing 164,000 pounds requires 11 axles in the state of Michigan and because of that carries less weight per axle than a five-axle truck weighing 80,000 pounds.
MDOT themselves say reducing the weight limit would result in more trucks, which would cause more congestion, and ultimately more wear and tear on Michigan roads.
As the Greatful Dead once sang “Keep Truckin” Michigan with those higher weight and 11 axle trucks.