Bill HB 1271 will increase the maximum weight allowable for trucks. Currently, trucks in Florida must carry no more than 80,000 pounds in weight. The bill will allow trucks of up to 88, 000 pounds on Florida’s roads. Some concerned citizens have been speaking out against the bill and some hoped that Governor Charlie Crist will veto the bill.
Experts note that such an increase in weight could significantly increase road damage caused by trucks. According to the Florida Coalition for Safe Highways, there will be no larger fees for the trucking companies if the heavier trucks are allowed. This means that in some municipalities, the condition of roads might deteriorate if the community cannot find funds to fix the roadways more quickly. Poor road conditions, in turn, may increase the risk of car accidents, truck accidents, bus accident, and even bicycle accidents. All vehicles and pedestrians rely on roads in good condition, and according to the Florida Coalition for Safe Highways, heavier trucks threaten the condition of roads.
The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways is also concerned about the safety of trucks with larger loads. According to the group, the extra 8, 000 pounds can impact a truck’s ability to slow down and stop, which can contribute to trucking accidents. As well, heavier trucks will require more driver awareness. However, most drivers today are trained on 8, 000 pound trucks, so there is some concern about the preparedness of truck drivers for the heavier trucks.
The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways does not want heavier trucks on the roadways, but is especially concerned that heavier trucks may be permitted on roadways without additional safety measures. The group believes that at the very least, the bill should make provisions for additional mandatory driver training and new requirements for axles to make heavier trucks safer.
The Florida Trucking Association supports the bill and notes that the industry has placed an emphasis on safety which has reduced trucking accident fatalities. According to the Florida Trucking Association, heavier trucks mean fewer trucks on the roads, less driving time and less fuel used, which is better for the trucking industry and for drivers.
The Florida Association of Professional EMTs and Paramedics has also spoken out against heavier trucks on Florida’s roads, noting that the heavier trucks may damage the roads and the state’s many bridges. Some of Florida’s bridges are already in poor repair, and there is concern that heavier trucks may render some of these bridges unsafe for other drivers and may even impact emergency medical access to some areas.
Bill HB 1271 was signed by Governor Charlie Crist on June 4, despite vocal protests by many groups. Companies will be able to start putting heavier trucks on the road as early as July 2010. It is expected that The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways and other concerned groups will attempt to have the law repealed.