According to statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were approximately 9,560 motor vehicle fatalities in the first quarter of 2022, roughly a 7% increase from the same period in 2021 and the highest number of first quarter deaths since 2002. While these statistics are early estimates that include all vehicles (not exclusively commercial), it’s telling of a more dangerous trend.

In 2021, the number of fatalities involving at least one large truck, which the NHTSA classifies as either a commercial or non-commercial truck with a gross weight of over 10,000 lbs, increased by 13% from 2020.

The increase in both accidents and fatalities has prompted a call for action.

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction. Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are more resources than ever for research, interventions and effective messaging and programs that can reverse the deadly trend and save lives,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Administrator.

Changes to Regulations and Legislation for the US Trucking Industry

Fortunately, much-needed changes are coming to trucking regulations in the United States. In 2022, the Biden administration and the Department of Transportation began the rollout of a new “zero fatality” initiative. The new initiative is aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating the rising number of injuries and death due to accidents involving commercial vehicles.

This initiative introduced a “Safe System Approach,” which targets five key objectives: safer vehicles, safer roads, safer speeds, safer people, and more intensive post-crash care, and added roughly $14 billion to the DoT budget.

In 2023, both Congress and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are planning on tightening regulatory and legislative policy to further rein in the problem.

Many of these new changes will introduce some much-needed quality-of-life improvements for truck drivers, including more parking options, overtime pay, and restroom access at delivery points.

Other regulations and adjustments to the trucking industry are being considered, including the addition of speed limiters and wireless IDs, which would change the way trucks are targeted for inspections.

There is another change that is being considered that involves the legal limits for truck size and weight.

New Truck Size and Weight Limits Being Considered

Shippers and carriers both have been rallying for years to have the federal truck size and weight limit increased, and a further effort throughout 2023 is expected.

“The ask isn’t anymore to just run heavier trucks on every road and bridge, it’s to take lessons learned and make changes — even from the pandemic, where there were certain temporary authorizations given to states to allow for heavier trucks without any corresponding safety impacts,” said Consumer Brands Association’s (CBA) vice president of supply chain and logistics, Tom Madrecki, in an interview to FreightWaves.

The CBA and those clamoring for an increase have requested a pilot project spanning ten states that will permit heavier weights in the federal interstate system.

There is something of a double-edged sword with this plan. On the one hand, it would allow shippers and carriers to operate more efficiently, reducing the number of loads being run, which would lower overall carbon emissions as a result.

On the other hand, driving with heavier loads can create numerous safety issues, including but not limited to a loss of control, increased breakdown or malfunction rate, increased stopping time and distance, and more.

Making the Most of Every Payload: Today

Whether or not CBA and the others will get the limits increased is yet to be determined. However, it is worth considering the possibility that an increase in load weight and truck size could also come with an increase in the fines and penalties associated with overweight violations.

However, carriers looking to maximize payloads and profits don’t have to wait for legislation to be approved before they can start making positive changes to their operations. By installing on-board scales, carriers can maximize payloads, taking the guesswork (and the surprise) out of the loading process.

How it works: Simply put, Air-Weigh’s on-board scales provide real-time load information to the driver, allowing them to see the weight per axle group as it’s being loaded. Once the loading process is completed, the driver can continue with confidence, knowing that there isn’t going to be an overload surprise at the next weigh station.

While an increase in truck size could prove beneficial for the supply chain, it won’t happen overnight, and nor should it. The time it takes to collect the necessary data to ensure that these limits can be safely increased is time well spent. In the meantime, trucking companies can take their own measures to improve both safety and efficiency. Utilizing an on-board scale is an easy way to make the most of every load while also ensuring weight compliance for every load.

Interested in an on-board scale solution for you? Contact us and we’d be happy to help.