Overweight Trucks Destroying Texas Roads - Time to put the cost back on them
Overweight dump trucks, garbage haulers and oilfield trucks (just to name a few) are taking roads in Texas that are designed to last 20-30 years are being reduced to rubble and potholes in less than 10. This is causing such a massive problem for Texas and Texans that Gov. Perry called for spending $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for infrastructure repairs and construction.
One reason this is occurring so frequently is there is little disincentive for trucking companies to follow the law and either comply with the weight limits or obtain proper permits. After all, the fine for getting caught has averaged a measly $110 per incident... IF YOU GET CAUGHT. And the odds of getting caught are very slim indeed.
So, factor in the downside for the company of paying a $110 fine vs the cost of running extra trucks and extra runs and what would you do? If you are a company run by ethical, law-abiding owners you would still do the right thing. And many companies do. But if you are run by unethical owners or managers trying to make their bottom line look better at the expense of Texas taxpayers, the rewards are well worth the risk.
Last month, Texas State Representative Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), who is the only Houston area member of the House Transportation Committee, introduced HB 3094 to increase the penalties and put some real teeth in Texas law. HB 3094 will require that the fine for violating the existing transportation code be increased to $1/pound overweight. If a truck is running 10,000 pounds overweight, not uncommon at all, the fine would be $10,000 instead of $110.
This fine would be charged against the driver of the truck. It is the driver's responsibility, under their commercial driver's license, to make certain their truck is within weight standards. A second offense by the same driver in a 36 month period will result in the loss of commercial driving privileges (their job) for a period of six months to one year. Do you think that will get the driver's attention and keep them from knowingly taking an overweight load?
Three or more offenses for a singe driver, or a group of drivers working for the same company, would result in the company being fined $1/pound for each incident. Things could get very costly very fast for repeat offenders.
The fees collected by these offenses would be split equally between law enforcement and TXDOT for road maintenance. This will create incentives for law enforcement agencies to apply the necessary resources to enforcement so that not only does the fine increase, but the likelihood of getting caught increases as well.
To ensure that shippers are not putting undue pressure on trucking companies, the bill also calls for a law enforcement fee of $5,000 to be levied on the shipper. This fee would also go to funding increased enforcement activity by law enforcement.
The goal is to stop the destruction of our highways which is costing both lives and taxpayer money in the billions. It is also to create a level playing field for companies to compete for business. Currently, unethical companies running overweight trucks can compete unfairly with law-abiding companies by consistently running overweight trucks.
Fletcher called HB 3094 a pro-business, pro-consumer and pro-Texas bill. A win-win-win for all who follow the laws. Fletcher said, "HB 3094 addresses those few commercial vehicle companies that choose to blatantly violate Texas law and operate with overloaded big trucks. These overloaded vehicles are not only dangerous to Texas motorists, but they are damaging Texas highways at a rate that the State can not keep pace with. This bill does not change existing rules regarding weights, but only strengthens the penalties if the law is violated. This is a good bill for Texas and I have already had positive phone calls from the trucking industry who want an even playing field for those who do follow the law."
This is a positive step for Texas taxpayers and motorists. If it becomes law, it will make our roads safer for drivers and their families, and it will save billions in premature road repairs because of overweight trucks. We must be watchful that companies that routinely run overweight trucks do not apply pressure on the legislature to weaken or block this bill. It is vital for our safety and for responsible stewardship of our state's once beautiful highways and roadways.
Overweight Trucks Destroying Roadways in DeWitt County - Photo from State Impact
After my first article on this subject, "Overweight Trucks Causing Massive Problems for Roads and Texas Budget", I received some reader feedback about governmental regulations on this issue. It is right to oppose needless and improper over-regulation by the government on business. This has helped Texas become the fastest growing economy in our country. However, transportation - the creation and maintenance of a vital economic infrastructure component - is a necessary and proper function of state government. It is responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars to stop companies from cheating the system and destroying the roads that we, as taxpayers, have paid for.
TexasGOPVote will follow the progress of this bill and report on its support and opposition as we move through the legislative process.