PEKIN — In addition to the wear and tear that comes with plowing, salting and freezing temperatures alternating with temporary thaws, road crews also have to contend with the damage caused by heavy truck traffic.
“CMVs (commercial motor vehicles) can create a variety of damage to roadways, including but not limited to potholes on roadways, which in turn can cause damage to other traveling motorists,” said Mindy Carroll, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police. "While this damage can be caused by any vehicle, the damage likely goes up more than proportionally with size and weight.”
Downtown Pekin sees its fair share of commercial vehicle traffic, largely because two major state highways intersect there. Illinois Route 29, which runs north to south and connects Peoria with Springfield, joins the east-west Illinois Route 9, which provides access to interstates 74 and 55, at Margaret and 3rd streets.
The truck traffic coming through downtown Pekin each day ranges from 475 to 1,150 vehicles daily, according to Illinois Department of Transportation statistics.
“Pekin is more of an origin and destination for trucks than just a pass through location due to the river crossing with Illinois 9, rail access, river access, grain terminals and other industrial companies along Illinois 29 and the Illinois River,” said IDOT's Jessie Decker.
There is no limit to the number of trucks on state routes like Route 29 or Route 9, Decker said. The current weight limit for commercial vehicles traveling on Illinois roads is 80,000 pounds.
Locally, there is an effort to block an increase in that weight limit. Coalition Against Bigger Trucks has been lobbying federal lawmakers not to heed requests by companies including Amazon, FedEx and UPS who want longer double-trailer trucks as well as an increase in the maximum truck weights from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds.
“If legal weight limits were increased on all highways governed by the state of Illinois, roads would likely deteriorate faster and more severely,” said Decker. “Allowing permitted weight limit increases would likely cause additional deterioration, but that could be offset by the fee charged for each permit that would go toward road repairs.”
An opponent of larger trucks, Bartonville police Chief Brian Fengel, also the president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with Illinois legislators.
One concern about larger trucks is the stress they would place on roads and bridges he says are already in need of repair. He also believes an increase in truck sizes would be detrimental to highway safety.
“The (IACP) has historically opposed bigger trucks for the simple safety of the motoring public,” Fengel said. “If you get on the roadway now and try to pass a semi, it’s at times very difficult. If you get longer trucks, it’s going to be even more dangerous.”
Fengel’s perspective on commercial vehicles comes firsthand. Before becoming a law enforcement professional, he transported heavy equipment.
“I have a lot of truckers calling and texting me, telling me they don’t want bigger, longer, heavier trucks,” he said. “These are people who drive them every day.”