WEST CHESTER — Scott Bohn, former West Chester police chief who now heads up Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, is working to ensure loopholes are not inserted into legislation that would allow an increase in truck size and weight.
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a 24-hour mark-up of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, a legislative package that will invest $500 billion over the next five years to expand, rebuild and replace America’s failing infrastructure. The full House is poised to take up the issue June 30, and Bohn fears lobbyists and special interest groups may pressure for loopholes in the bill to allow heavier maximum truck weights.
“Law enforcement professionals across the Commonwealth are opposed with proposals to put even heavier, more dangerous trucks on our roads,” said Bohn. “To our members, this is just common sense. Regardless of what type of cargo is being transported, allowing even heavier trucks on our roads is a recipe for disaster. Heavier weights have been associated with increased braking violations, higher likelihood of rolling over, and more severe crashes, to name a few concerns.”
The bill would invest $319 billion in new federal highway funds, with an estimated $12.1 billion going to New York. It would dedicate funding for large transportation projects and help build new, resilient infrastructure designed to withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather. The bill also provides funding for the design of streets that are safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
Democrats have praised the legislation as a significant departure from previous surface transportation bills with a focus on maintenance spending and providing a way to move toward a zero-emissions future. Republicans say the bill as partisan and say there is no plan for how to fund it.
Regardless, Bohn doesn’t want to see any language in the bill that would permit larger trucks on the roadways.
“While most in law enforcement understand the need to move goods quickly and efficiently around the country at a low cost, we also have to keep in mind the costs associated with more accidents on the road and more police time spent responding to them.” said Bohn. “Not to mention, every time a member of law enforcement is sent out to the scene of an accident on the highway, we are also putting their lives at risk.”
Not only would interstate highways and turnpikes be affected, but local roads too, Bohn said, adding that the bigger trucks would impact state highways and even a multitude of local roads that carry truck traffic into smaller boroughs and townships.
At the request of Congress, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) conducted a study on truck size and weight limits and published its results last year. USDOT’s Final Report to Congress recommended that no changes be made to current truck size and weight laws.
On the issue of weight, the 2016 report from USDOT found in limited state testing that heavier trucks had significantly higher crash rates: 91,000-pound trucks were 47 percent higher, and 97,000-pound trucks were 99 to 400 percent higher than trucks weighing 80,000 pounds.
“Allowing more and more commodities to pile onto the long list of those that are already running at heavier weights, whether in the Commonwealth or nationally, is bad public policy that will put our motorists, law enforcement and infrastructure at even greater risk,” Bohn said.
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