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Currently, the Panama Canal is expanding from one of its greatest excavations since its completion in 1914, which may prove to be beneficial for Texas ports; especially Houston. The expansion will triple the capacity of ships using the Panama Canal, and debate exists whether Texas’ ports are a logical middle ground between American ports on the west & east coasts. Larger ships carry more cargo, which needs to be carried throughout the U.S. on larger trucks.
Texas law allows for a maximum of five axles on a truck and makes the maximum weight limit for a tractor trailer on Texas roads 80,000 pounds, but, if a motor carrier is willing to pay for an overweight permit, then this statutory cap can be exceeded. However, Texas state officials are currently orchestrating a change with the Legislature and the Federal government to increase the maximum weight limit for trucks on certain highways that will serve as the arteries that would deliver goods from Texas ports to the Metroplex for nationwide distribution.
The two proposed roadways for the change, raising the axle limit from five to six and the truck weight limit from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds, are I-45 and the yet-to-be-completed Loop 9. Many Texans know I-45 as the main highway connecting Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston. However, Loop 9 is a project state officials have been planning, which will serve as an outer loop around Dallas and Forth worth to divert interstate traffic from the heavily populated Metroplex. The project will ultimately take 20 years to complete, but eastern sections have already been built.
When a motor carrier pays the state for an overweight permit, the idea of the payment is prepare Texas highways and other pieces of infrastructure for the wear and tear of Texas roads. A publicly appointed group of stakeholders is currently generating a report on the effects of the heavier traffic on Texas highways, but estimates are between $1 billion and $3.5 billion needed to prepare and repair the state’s crumbling roads.
Some critics worry about the safety of other motorists driving around overweight vehicles, which arguably take longer time and distance to stop versus lighter vehicles. When overweight vehicles get overweight permits under the law now, they must be accompanied by one or two escort vehicles to alert motorists and test low underpasses. These tiny convoys may be less frequent with larger weight limits; making Texas’ roads even more hazardous.
Other critics worry about the political aspect of making overweight limits on I-45 greater, when the move would clearly benefit the Port of Houston and ignore other port cities like Corpus Christi. State officials say that cooperation from the Federal government will be key to moving along with this plan, but watch for debate on this issue in the upcoming 83rd Legislative Session, which begins January 8th, 2013.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a trucking accident, know your rights by enlisting the services of a Personal Injury Lawyer at Zinda Law Group PLLC.