Overweight Trucks Causing Massive Problems for Roads and Texas Budget

Texas Roadways Feeling the Crunch of Heavy TrucksDuring Texas Governor Rick Perry's 2013 State of the State Address he said "Texas is stronger than ever." It is too bad the same cannot be said for our roadways that are crumbling under the weight of record numbers of overweight trucks. According to a report from a Washington research organization, The Road Information Report (TRIP), 18% of Texas roads are in poor condition and an additional 27% are in mediocre condition.

Governor Rick Perry at Texas State of the State Address 2013Because of this, Gov. Perry requested the legislature look at taking some of the surplus that has accumulated in the Rainy Day Fund to use for building a stronger infrastructure. “We need to maintain a strong Rainy Day Fund," Perry said. "While we cannot and we will not raid that fund to meet ongoing expenses, we also shouldn't accumulate billions more than is necessary. That’s why I support a move to utilize $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in infrastructure programs.

But why is this necessary at this point? Are we not building good roads that are strong enough to last? Why are roads crumbling under our tires and making our travels more dangerous and our maintenance bills for these roads more expensive? One answer - HEAVY TRUCKS!

The economic boom in Texas is a two edged sword. The Eagle Ford Shale project has brought job growth and revenue to our state. But it has also brought a great increase in the use of overweight trucks on Texas roads and highways. The result - roads that are built to last twenty to thirty years are turning to crumbling, dangerous pathways in about five to ten years. One single truck can do more road damage than 1,000 cars, and the numbers of trucks, especially heavy trucks, is increasing rapidly.

The Corpus Christi Caller also reported on the increased costs of road maintenance being shouldered by South Texas counties stating, "combined maintenance expenses for Bee, Goliad, Jim Wells, Karnes and Live Oak counties topped $10.1 million in fiscal year 2010, almost double the value from fiscal year 2008."

Revenues from truck permits are not enough to reimburse many counties for their skyrocketing road maintenance costs and TXDOT is also having to cover escalating costs as well. While there are permit fees for overweight trucks, there is little incentive for trucking companies to obtain them.

Texas Overweight Truck Enforcement

The maximum fine, if you get caught, in Texas is $1,000 or less. Hardly a disincentive compared to the cost of running extra trucks. Compare that to North Dakota (also experiencing a massive oil boom) where fines can approach $6,000 and an additional $2/pound for weight in excess of 30,000 pounds overweight.

Texas State Representatives are looking to address this problem in the current session. Proposals including increasing spending on oil production related damage to increasing fines for overweight trucks will be discussed in future stories on this issue.

This is not just a cost issue. It is also a safety issue. A Houston Chronicle article reported a TXDOT accident report covering the 23 county swath of the Eagle Ford Shale region. There were 248 fatalities, up from 177 in 2011, an increase of 40%. The most dangerous time to drive - between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

This is not just an oil related problem. Many industries are contributing to the damage caused by overweight trucks including garbage and dump trucks along with steel transportation trucks. Some companies are legendary in their repeated disregard for the law and others are ethically following the law even though it puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

While as conservatives, we are naturally opposed to increased government regulation, in this case, it is necessary to protect the investment we have all made as taxpayers in our states roads and highways. Texas used to have some of the best roads in our nation. Sadly, this is not true today.

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