The Texas Legislature has long maintained reasonable limits on the size of trucks operating on local roadways. However, some are consistently pushing to increase limits on truck weights and lengths. Over the years, legislation has repeatedly failed because permitting longer or heavier trucks on Texas roads is bad policy.

Increasing size and weight limits would put additional larger trucks on local highway systems, causing further damage to infrastructure, and substantially increasing highway lifecycle costs due to accelerated pavement deterioration. These problems would be especially pronounced in rural counties where heavy trucks regularly traverse local roadways and maintenance is more difficult to maintain than in urban areas. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) most recent assessment of U.S. infrastructure gave roads a “D” grade. To make matters worse, ASCE found that about half of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient or over 50 years old. The U.S. Department of Transportation has found that infrastructure degradation would be exacerbated by bigger trucks, with such vehicles causing $1.1 billion in immediate damage to bridges on the highway system and up to $1.8 billion in estimated pavement damage per year.

The current tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel was last increased in 1993 and has failed to keep pace with highway maintenance costs, changing fuel prices, and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Since 2008, policymakers have been forced to transfer a total of $275 billion of general taxpayer funds into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to cover this shortfall, including $118 billion in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which will only cover the HTF shortfall through 2026.

The Government Accountability Office has found that underpayment into the HTF by the trucking industry distorts the competitive environment within the freight transportation sector “by making it appear that heavier trucks are…less expensive…than they actually are and puts other modes, such as rail and maritime, at a disadvantage.”

As a result, Texas policymakers should join with their Washington counterparts to not consider changes to state and federal truck size or weight limitations until the full extent of the impacts of different truck configurations are thoroughly understood, and trucks are paying their fair share for the damage caused to U.S. roads and bridges.

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