Houston Citywide Plan Could Limit Heavy Truck Routes in 2024December 22, 2023
The New Houston Truck Route Could Be in Effect by Summer 2024
Houston’s notoriety for traffic, risky roads, and deadly truck accidents could start to fade in 2024, especially if a Citywide Truck Route Plan is ultimately adopted by local leaders.
The Plan in question focuses on heavy tractor-trailers, limiting where the heaviest trucks travel in Houston.
If enacted and rolled out, the Houston Citywide Truck Route Plan could prevent nearly 1,000 tractor-trailer wrecks in the Greater Houston Area (GTA) each year, authorities say.
Here’s why, with a closer look at:
- Background: Truck Traffic & 18-Wheeler Wrecks in Houston, TX
- A Timeline of the Houston Citywide Truck Route Plan
- The Houston Truck Route Plan: Proposed Routes & Limits
- How to Get Involved
- What’s Next
Background: Truck Traffic & 18-Wheeler Wrecks in Houston, TX
Houston sees more cargo move through its borders than any other Port City on the Gulf Coast, according to officials at the Houston Planning & Development Department (HPDD).
That’s one reason why so many traffic crashes occur in the GTA every day and why Houston is rife with risky roads for truckers. It’s also why tractor-trailer traffic can be particularly dense in Houston, with the bustling oil, gas, shipping, and logistics industries operating countless big rigs in and around the city.
Compounding the issue, 18-wheeler traffic in Houston and Galveston is expected to skyrocket over the next decade or so. In fact, experts say motor carrier traffic could grow ~60% by 2040 due to expanding trade, thriving populations, and economic growth.
All that — coupled with mounting concerns about tractor-trailer traffic in Houston’s more residential neighborhoods — has created an ever-more pressing need for some solution.
Enter the Houston Citywide Truck Route Plan.
A Timeline of the Houston Citywide Truck Route Plan
In January 2023, the HPDD launched the Houston Citywide Truck Route Plan (the “Plan”). In its initial phase, officials have coordinated various efforts, including:
- Community input, surveys, and meetings
- Neighborhood touring
- Truck traffic hotspot mapping
- Motor carrier surveys
- Stakeholder and interagency meetings
Assembling and refining the information from that discovery phase, the HPDD crafted a proposal for the Plan, presenting it to several Houston leaders and committees from October through November 2023.
On November 29, 2023, the Houston City Council (HCC) voted to authorize the development of the Plan so that it could achieve key goals, including:
- Optimizing freight travel in the GTA
- Providing designated truck routes for better freight movement through and around Houston
- Preserving Houston’s transportation infrastructure by preventing the heaviest commercial vehicles from traveling on roads not designed or built to withstand them
- Reducing Houston’s roadway maintenance expenses in the long term
- Improving the safety of Houston’s roads for all travelers, including motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians
- Enhancing the quality of life for Houston residents by minimizing noise and air quality impacts in the suburbs and residential areas
As this program moves forward, authorities plan to test certain routes and make final recommendations next year. By March 2024, Phase 1 should be finished, and the official rollout of the Plan could get underway.
The Houston Truck Route Plan: Proposed Routes & Limits
The Plan does not apply to all commercial vehicles or trucks operating in Houston. Instead, it’s only for vehicles that:
- Weigh at least 26,000 pounds (cargo included)
- Have at least three axles
- Transport hazardous materials or solid waste (in placarded amounts)
The Plan specifically excludes emergency vehicles, RVs, passenger-carrying commercial vehicles, utility vehicles, mail delivery vehicles (like Amazon delivery trucks), and certain other heavy vehicles.
As part of the Plan, a handful of different truck routes will be set, with distinct routes for deliveries within Houston versus heavy tractor-trailers passing through the city. Specifically, the Plan will reportedly designate separate routes for:
- Local destinations, including alternative routes for emergency closures and highway construction
- Through routes, including highways and interstate roads that heavy trucks can traverse to get through the city
- No-go zones, meaning areas where trucks will be prohibited from traveling
Currently, authorities expect that the penalty for violating the Plan to be a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines of around $500. Nevertheless, a lot remains unclear about who would enforce the Plan and its penalties and whether that may be enough to promote early compliance.
How to Get Involved
If you live in Houston or operate a truck in the GTA, it’s not too late to get involved and make your opinion heard. To do that, you can:
- Pinpoint “risky locations” in Houston here, helping authorities see where truck traffic may currently be a problem.
- Take the Community Survey here, sharing your opinions and experiences while there’s still time.
- Check out the HPDD’s Recommendations in its Planning Study to get up to speed with the ins and outs of the issues, what’s at stake, and what future routes could look like.
Next up for the Citywide Truck Route Plan is the Pilot Study. That should kick off in early 2024, with the intent of testing and refining routes, policies, and the overall regulatory framework. If all goes smoothly with that, the Plan could launch in the GTA by July to August 2024.
Will that push the Houston Citywide Truck Route Plan closer to reality? If it does, will that be effective in reducing truck accidents in Houston?
Only time may reveal the answers to those questions. For now, a couple of things remain clear — Houston truck accidents won’t go away by themselves, and victims don’t have to seek justice alone.