Nevada is a landlocked state and, because of that, 93 percent of the items we buy are hauled into the state by trucks.
That could explain why the Nevada Motor Transport Association, an outfit that represents the trucking industry, is constantly battling against measures that place restrictions on big rigs or their operators. In some cases, it finds itself fighting for more freedoms.
The latter is why the organization finds itself locked in a fight with law enforcement for the ears -- and votes -- of Nevada's federal lawmakers.
The trucking industry is advocating for a change in federal law that would allow trucks to carry more than the current limit of 80,000 pounds without a special permit. It has the backing of heavyweight lobbyists hired by Anheuser-Busch and Kraft Foods Inc.
Boulder City Police Chief Thomas Finn is no big-time lobbyist, but the issue prompted him -- in his role as president of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association -- to travel to D.C. last week to discuss his concerns with state representatives.
Finn and his colleagues have witnessed accidents between passenger vehicles and big rigs. They are never pretty when involving trucks hauling 80,000 pounds of cargo, and he can only imagine how much worse they would be with the truck 20,000 pounds heavier.
"Every sheriff and every chief in the state of Nevada is absolutely opposed to this," Finn said Friday, a day after he returned from the nation's capital. "We know the physics of these crashes. That extra (weight) is kinetic energy that results in more serious crashes, more damage, more fatalities."
Physics? Did someone say physics?
Paul Enos, chief executive officer of the Motor Transport Association, also referred to physics in his argument in favor of the new legislation that would increase the permitted load to 97,000 pounds.
If a 300-pound man steps on your toe, it's going to hurt as much as a 150-pound woman in high heels stepping on your toe, he said.
"Eighty-thousand pounds versus a 6,000-pound car? It's going to be ugly whether that is 80,000 pounds or 120,000 pounds; that's just how it is," Enos said. "It's like being hit by a train carrying one car or 100 cars. Does it really matter? It's not good."
It's funny, not "ha-ha funny," but interesting that these two find themselves on the opposite side of trucking issues again. Boulder City and Enos' association went to battle about whether trucks should be banned from U.S. Highway 93 until the roadway was widened.
Knowing this, the obvious questions were quickly posed.
Mr. Enos, do you think Boulder City has a thing for trucks? Enos: "Yeah, they don't like trucks."
Chief Finn, does Boulder City hate trucks? Finn: "I don't have a problem with truckers. This is all about safety."
"I've been to crashes where these things have rolled over onto vehicles," he said. "Because they're speeding or texting, I've seen them run into cars and crush people to death in the most gruesome way. I'm going to do anything I can to prevent that from happening."
Nevada allows triple-trailer trucks, unlike Arizona and California. Trucking companies often park at the borders, wait for another trailer and haul three through the state until they reach a border where it is outlawed. Then they are unhitched and hauled by a second truck.
So, if our state already allows triple-trailers, why would Nevada trucking representatives have such a great interest in the legislation?
Enos said fewer tractor-trailers would be on the road if trucks can carry larger loads. That not only is a plus for the environment, but it should also makes the roads and highways safer.
"The more productive the trucks are, the fewer trucks you will have on the road, and you are less exposed to accidents," Enos said. "Trucks should be as productive as you can to the point you're not compromising infrastructure and safety."
Savings would be passed along to the consumer, he said, especially if the weight laws were uniform nationwide. I know -- we'd have to see it to believe it.
Enos also argued that increasing the weight amounts could save taxpayers money. For example, if a truck is hauling dirt from one location to a dump site under a government contract, the company either has to make more trips to stay within the legal weight limits, or fork out $4,000 for a permit to carry a heavier load. That adds to the cost of construction contracts.
The battle at the federal level is set to go down in February. That's when we will learn which side carries more, well, weight. Finn believes he has Nevada legislators on his side.
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