State lawmakers consider allowing heavier trucks on Virginia highways

Bill would raise maximum weight limit more than 5 tons

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Heavier trucks could soon be hitting Virginia highways.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to participate in a federal pilot program that would test the use and effect of heavier trucks.

Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall is one of many law enforcement officers concerned about the new bill making its way through the General Assembly.

"This is a bad idea," Hall said.

The proposal would raise the maximum legal weight of trucks on Virginia highways by more than 5 tons. The current limit is 80,000 pounds. The proposed legislation would raise it to 91,000 pounds.

"Adding additional weight to that certainly could increase the severity of a crash. Essentially, the heavier something is, (when) it hits something else, the more severe that's going to be," Hall said.

Hall is also concerned that it would take heavier trucks longer to stop, but local Delegate T. Scott Garrett, who introduced the bill in the House, said that's not true.

"The safety profile for these trucks may in fact be safer which is somewhat counterintuitive because they have more weight, but they also have a sixth axle with a sixth set of brakes that actually help these vehicles stop at a shorter distance," Garrett said.

He said the bill would simply allow Virginia to participate in a federal pilot program studying the impact of heavier trucks

"There are a number of Virginia’s largest manufacturing and agribusiness employers across the commonwealth that are very supportive of trying to look into this issue from an efficiency perspective of being able to have other alternatives, to be able to more efficiently transport their goods," Garrett said.

But Hall said sacrificing safety isn't worth the potential business benefits.

"Trying to avoid, reduce crashes should be the goal. This clearly doesn't accomplish that,” Hall said.

The bill will be heard in front of the full House Transportation Committee Thursday morning.

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