Indiana lawmakers are debating whether to allow more trucks that are now considered overweight to travel on state roadways.
House Bill 1190, authored by Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, would increase the maximum weight for trucks from 80,000 pounds to 120,000 pounds. Current state law only allows trucks to be up to 120,000 pounds if they are hauling certain commodities, including metal, paper or agricultural materials.
The Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee discussed the bill on Tuesday but did not vote on it.
Manufacturers and trucking groups are supportive of the legislation, but opponents, including law enforcement agencies, have raised concerns about possible damage to state infrastructure and safety on the roads. Railway groups also are opposed to the bill.
According to a recent statewide poll commissioned by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, 57% of respondents said they opposed increasing the weight limit, 27% said they supported it and 16% said they were undecided.
“There will be crashes,” Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham said. “Will there be more? I don’t know, but they will be more severe with more weight.”
Supporters of the bill say there isn’t proof that it would cause more accidents.
“We don’t have any data that indicates—and we haven’t been able to find any data—that heavier loads are involved in higher incidents of accidents,” Gary Langston, president of Indiana Motor Truck Association, said.
Langston said he believes if the heavier trucks were causing more accidents, the data would be there, because the state has allowed some heavier trucks carrying certain commodities since 2014.
Karen Johnston, regional director of government affairs for Toyota Motor North America, said the current weight limits force the company to fill trucks only two-thirds of capacity. She said this legislation would allow Toyota to be more efficient, because fewer trucks would be needed.
If fewer trucks were on the roads, supporters argued, it would make the roads safer.
“We have an opportunity to find a better, safer and more efficient way to do our work,” Johnston said.
Pressel said he doesn’t think the state should be picking winners and losers by limiting which commodities are allowed on overweight trucks. In 2019, more than 113,000 single-trip permits were granted for those trucks.
Pressel said if those single-trip permits didn’t exist, more than 50,000 additional trucks would have been on Indiana’s roads.
But some lawmakers questioned whether manufacturers would increase production and keep the same number of trucks, carrying bigger loads, on the road.
The House passed the bill 57-35 last month. Sen. Mike Crider, chairman of the Homeland Security and Transportation Committee, said he wants the committee to further discuss the bill and possibly consider amendments before voting on it.
“We’ve got plenty of committee time left before the end of session,” Crider said.
The deadline for House bills to pass out of Senate committees is April 15.