Federal and state regulations govern the weight and physical size of trucks, buses and trailers on U.S. highways. The current federal weight limit is 80,000 pounds, and it has been in place since 1975. Recently, some lawmakers have considered raising the weight limits due to economic advantages. Read on to learn more about truck weight limits and how they are regulated.
Why Are There Truck Weight Limits?
Truck weight regulation started after the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This act authorized the Interstate and Defense Highway System to preserve infrastructure and keep trucks, buses and trailers moving efficiently by regulating size and weight.
Many bridges and roads can’t handle heavier weight. To preserve infrastructure, truck weights are regulated. Even with the heavy 80,000 pound limit, there are heavier loads that need to be transported. Trucks carrying loads over the regulated weight limit need to obtain a special trip permit to transport the load.
Since the original weight regulation, there have been periodic weight limit increases as improvements in infrastructure and vehicle design have been made.
How Do Weigh Stations Work?
The original purpose of weigh stations was to enable each state to collect taxes from trucks crossing their highways. Now the tax is collected from trucking companies and owner-operators through a quarterly tax fee.
Today, weigh stations are used to check data used to calculate the taxes. They are also used to enforce weight restrictions, check load permits and conduct safety inspections.
You may notice many weigh stations along highways are usually closed. Technology advancements have allowed states to weigh the trucks right on the highway. Many trucks are equipped with a transponder, similar to the ones used for electronic toll collection. Scales have been built into highways (usually about a mile before the weigh station). When the truck equipped with the transponder drives over the scale, it collects the information and sends it to the weigh station. This allows the truck to bypass the weigh station and for the weigh station to collect the weight data even if it is closed.
The “weigh-in-motion” technology transponder sends weight information in real time, so if the weigh station is open, the attendant or the automated system determines if the truck needs to pull into the weigh station for further inspection. They usually decide if the truck should stop based on the weight of the vehicle, its history and the history of the trucking company.
Learn more about trucking regulations in some of our previous blogs: