CTR Answers Call to Assist Texas Legislature
One way CTR serves Texas is providing unbiased, third-party analysis of potential legislation that will impact the state’s transportation system. Earlier this year, both TxDOT and the State Legislature called on a CTR-led team to analyze data in response to four house bills pertaining to truck weight limits. Providing these analyses helped TxDOT and legislators to make informed decisions.
The researchers analyzed data for the following house bills:
- HB 2592: Proposed changes in weight/vehicle configurations for ready mix concrete trucks
- HB 2606: Proposed changes in weight and permit routing rules for oil well service rigs
- HB 3129: Proposed increase in raw milk truck gross vehicle weights (GVW)
- HB 3061: Proposal to allow permits for 97,000 lb GVW trucks carrying sealed ocean containers and authority to establish corridors for overweight containers
The team provided unbiased analyses based on questions posed by the Legislature about pavement and bridge infrastructure impacts that could result if these four proposed bills were made into law. For example, HB 3061 would have allowed trucks transporting sealed shipping containers (picked up at the coastal ports) to operate at 97,000 pounds on routes designated by the Legislature (including Interstate Highways), which could result in a significant economic benefit to the state. However, the heavier trucks would also place stress on state roads and bridges that were not designed for such heavy loads. TxDOT and the legislators needed to know the relationship between pavement and bridge consumption and the proposed heavier trucks described in the draft bill. Such an analysis has many moving parts: what if the truck configurations were changed to decrease pavement consumption? Which configurations will do the job without violating state restrictions on truck length? What if certain routes were deemed corridors for overweight trucks? How would such corridors relate to the rest of the Texas road network? The CTR-led team drew on its depth of experience in freight analysis to address many such factors.
In a highly iterative process, the team performed repeated analyses as each proposed bill underwent edits in response to legislative comments and revisions. The analysis team included CTR’s Mike Murphy and Jorge Prozzi, UTSA’s Jose Weissmann and Angela Weissmann (frequent collaborators on CTR projects), and TxDOT’s Gregg Freeby.
Dr. Murphy coordinated the team, researching and preparing the truck configurations for the different house bills. Dr. Prozzi provided the pavement consumption analysis data. Drs. Jose and Angela Weissmann analyzed the bridge consumption data. As TxDOT’s Bridge Division Director, Gregg Freeby provided guidance from the TxDOT perspective regarding bridges and worked with his engineers and the Weissmanns to determine the percentage of bridges that would be over load capacity based on certain truck or vehicle load configurations.
Notes Dr. Murphy about the process, “we worked as a team—otherwise these analyses could not have been done,” given the tight deadlines for quick responses to bill changes.
This effort built on earlier CTR research projects. For example, Dr. Prozzi used pavement models he originally developed in the Rider 36 study; he is currently refining these models to study efficient truck configurations through the ongoing Project 0-6817, Review and Evaluation of Current Cross Vehicle Weights and Axle Load Limits. Drs. Jose and Angela Weissmann used bridge models that were developed during Rider 36 and are also being used for the CTR 0-6817 and 0-6820 studies of overweight coastal corridors.
TxDOT Administration presented the analysis documents to the legislature. The four proposed bills did not make it out of committee but likely will be re-introduced during the next legislative session.
Information about the analysis and truck configurations was presented at a workshop for Project 0-6817, and was of great interest to attendees such as members of the Texas Trucking Association.