Are Heavy Trucks To Blame For Michigan's Poor Roads?

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Michigan has the highest truck weight limit in the nation by more than 40 tons.

A fact that's caused some people to question the billions of dollars Governor Snyder wants to spend on road maintenance, but there is almost no arguing about the state of Michigan's roads.

"They could use some improvements," Juan Saldana said. "There's a lot of potholes out there, and you hit them and it throws your whole alignment off."

Other drivers say it's gone on too long.

"They've been let go, I think they need to be upgraded," Steve Pettinger said.

The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, or MITA, agrees.

"We have not invested adequately in our transportation network, and we're seeing that particularly at the local level," MITA Executive Director Mike Nystrom said.

But what some drivers are seeing are a lot of heavy trucks weighing up to 164,000 pounds with a special permit, more than twice the federal limit. People argue if the weight was lowered, it might save money in the long run.

"They're big and they take up a lot of space on the road, and you wonder, what are they doing to the roads?" Gabrielle Kiraz said. "Because they are heavy and have a lot of extra weight, and I'm sure that has something to do with it."

The Board of Jackson County Road Commissioner's managing director said truck weight is a major concern for the roads, especially in their high truck traffic on I-94. Experts say lowering the weight isn't the answer though.

"By lowering our truck weights, we're actually going to have a negative impact on our economy because businesses are going to have to adjust," Nystrom said. "They're going to have to change their truck configurations, and that's only going take us backwards with regards to our economy and jobs."

Nystrom said even though Michigan has the highest gross weight limit for truck, the per axle is low compared to other states. By spreading out the weight, it actually reduces the wear and tear on the state's roads and bridges, though building them in the first place can be more expensive.

"We may be putting more into them, but they're safer as well," Nystrom said.

Experts say Michigan's weather has more impact on road deterioration than heavy trucks.

Only about 5 percent of trucks in Michigan carry more than 80,000 lbs.

The state is allowed to have a higher weight limit than the federal government allows because Michigan has been grand-fathered in.


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