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  • Press release

Kansas County Engineer to Congress: Heavier Trucks Will Destroy our Roads and Bridges and Endanger Motorists

President of the Kansas County Highway Association heads to DC to fight to preserve states infrastructure and public safety

EMPORIA — Local government officials and law enforcement leaders from Kansas and across the country are traveling to Capitol Hill to tell Congress they don’t want their residents to be forced to share the roads with bigger, more dangerous trucks. They are waging a battle against special interests who are pushing federal legislation that would test heavier semi-trucks on our nation’s roads, endangering unsuspecting motorists and causing wear and tear to our bridges and roads, reaching into taxpayers’ pockets. 

 

One of the leaders headed to Washington is Jim Brull, assistant Lyon County engineer and current president of the Kansas County Highway Association. Brull is a long-time advocate of maintaining the nation’s current commercial truck size and weight limits and is also a Member of the National Association of County Engineers (NACE). Brull plans to meet on Wednesday, March 20, with members of Kansas’ federal delegation.

 

Working on behalf of both Lyon County and the Kansas County Highway Association allows me to ensure that we are being fiscally responsible while keeping our community safe and informed at the state and local level,” said Brull. “I am concerned that HR 3372 will make it more difficult to financially maintain our infrastructure in a manner that will keep our community safe.”       


H.R. 3372, which was passed out of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in May of 2023 by a slim margin, would dramatically expand the operation of 91,000-pound trucks nationwide. The bill creates a “pilot project” allowing states to authorize operation of these dangerous heavier trucks on roadways for up to 10 years.

 

Just as concerning is the Modernizing Operations for Vehicles in Emergencies Act (MOVE Act). H.R. 7496, which was introduced this month, would fundamentally change who can raise weights on interstate highways. Under current law, interstate weight limits can only be increased as part of a presidentially declared emergency, which happened during the COVID pandemic in 2020.


This bill would give any governor the authority to raise the interstate weight limit in their state during an emergency or “unusual conditions”, including when the “supply chain function is substantially impaired.” This vague and subjective criterion is just an attempt by proponents of bigger trucks to raise weight limits with virtually no oversight.


According to a recent study, 5,658 local bridges in Kansas would be unable to safely accommodate 91,000-pound trucks. Replacing those bridges would cost Kansas taxpayers more than $2.3 billion.


“Often our elected officials make decisions with limited information and are unaware of the impact their decisions will have on the communities they represent. It is important for our delegation in Washington to hear first-hand the issues that local engineers are experiencing as it pertains to infrastructure today and how legislation increasing truck size or weight would negatively impact infrastructure in the future,” said Brull. “There are countless reasons to reject legislation allowing heavier trucks on our roads, but the safety of our communities should be reason enough.”


According to the most recent available data, there were 1,820 large truck crashes in 2021 in Kansas, unfortunately 79 lost their lives in those crashes. This represents a 8% increase in fatalities compared to the previous year.


The 2016 USDOT study found that heavier trucks were 47%-400% more likely to be involved in a crash compared to standard 80,000-pound trucks.


According to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data, more than 47% percent of all bridges in Kansas already are currently rated in fair/poor condition.


The study also found higher rollover rates, higher brake violation rates and higher out of service violation rates. A 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that any truck with an out-of-service violation is 362% more likely to be involved in a crash.


“Lyon County has a population of over 33,000 with over 1,300 miles of road that my department is responsible for maintaining. Over the past seven years (2016 to 2023), CM-K Cover Material has increased from $11.47/ton to $16.40/ton, road oil from $1.84/gallon to $3.05/gallon and road rock from $7.55/ton to $10.75/ton. Today we received the 2024 bid for CM-K cover material, and the low bid read at $17.40/ton, which is a total price increase of 52% since 2016,” said Brull.  “As costs continue to increase, the less miles of road we will be able to maintain."


Brull plans to join local and public safety officials from other states in making the trip to Washington at the invitation of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), a nonprofit grassroots organization opposed to legislation that would make trucks longer or heavier.

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