Can longer and heavier big rig semi trucks on the roads of Indiana and Illinois do anything but increase the risk of serious traffic accidents and fatal truck crashes? Right now, there are bills moving through Congress that will allow longer and heavier commercial trucks on American roadways:
1. The Safe, Flexible, and Efficient Trucking Act of 2015, H.R. 3488, which allows for longer big rig semi trucks to be driven on American roads. If this bill becomes law, then tractor trailer trucks will be allowed to pull twin 33-foot-long trailers along the roads of Indiana, Illinois, and the rest of the country. Right now, the federal limit is two 28-foot trailers for these two-trailer trucks.
2. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, HR 2577, which allows for heavier big rig trucks on American roads. If passed, this law will allow current semi truck weight limits to increase 11,000 pounds per big rig (or 14%).
Proponents of these new laws argue that this will mean fewer big rig semi trucks on the roads, driving alongside of us. Fewer big trucks mean fewer truck crashes, they argue.
The Fight Against These Two Proposals: If Passed, People Will Be Hurt and Killed
However, there are many that argue this is wrong and allowing these new bills to become law will only increase the likelihood of even more fatal big rig, semi tractor-trailer truck crashes in this country.
The movement to stop this from happening is so big, in fact, that an organization has been formed: the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT). Others that have voiced opposition to increasing the length and weight of these heavy semi tractor trailer trucks include the Senate of the State of Illinois (in 2015 Resolution 233) and numerous police and safety organizations across the nation.
CABT started a huge ad campaign this month, targeting Washington, D.C., news outlets, arguing that these long and heavy big rig trucks are dangerous. Joining their push are representatives from police departments across the country — like Clyde, Ohio police chief Bruce Gower and Indiana’s own Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly.
Gower points out that these new big rig trailer trucks would be much longer than those double-trailer trucks we see on the roads already. Gower points out that the new laws, if passed, will allow big rigs that are so long, they span the length of an “eight-story building tilted on its side.” In Gower’s professional opinion, these proposed longer and heavier commercial trucks are not safe to be driven on roads shared with American families.
Indiana Police Chief Flannelly actually went to visit members of Congress last month to voice his concerns over these proposed changes to trucking industry regulations. In his opinion, these changes will increase the danger of big rig wrecks on Indiana roads. He points out, for example, that longer and heavier trucks will take more time to come to a stop — by his estimates, the new longer big rigs would need another 22 feet of stopping distance, or two car lengths.
That’s a huge concern when you consider these trucks are usually moving at a high rate of speed in major truck crashes — and the amount of time and distance a tractor trailer truck needs to brake and stop to prevent a crash is critical.
1. Research Shows 11% Higher Fatal Truck Crash Rate for These Proposed Big Rig Trucks
The Department of Transportation (USDOT) research has shown that these multi-trailer trucks will have an “… expected 11-percent higher overall fatal crash rate than single-trailer combinations.” (USDOT, 2000). An independent research study came to the same conclusion: these bigger multi-trailer trucks can be expected to have an 11% higher risk of accidents where people die in the crash. (MTIC, 2013/14)
2. Rollover Risk is Higher for These Trucks
More research by the Transportation Department shows that these trucks have a greater risk of rollover accidents because they have a higher center of gravity. (USDOT, 2000)
3. Reality Doesn’t Jive With Proponents’ Predictions
Historically, having bigger commercial trucks on the roads has never ended up with less trucks in traffic alongside families in sedans, etc. Since 1982, the last time that big rig weight limits were increased under federal law, the number of semis / 18-wheelers / rigs / tractor-trailer trucks has only increased. (And back then, proponents for the 1982 increase were also arguing that upping the weight limit would mean less truck traffic.)
Moreover, the predicted result here will mean more big rigs on the roads, not less. A 2010 study showed that “diverted freight will inevitably find its way onto the highway, resulting in 8 million more trucks on our roads and bridges—a 56-percent increase.”
Big Rig Truck Crashes Are Very Dangerous and Often Fatal Accidents
For those driving the roads of Indiana and Illinois, we see these big rig semi trucks sharing the roads with us every day — as we commute to work or school, or when we are traveling to visit friends or going on a short business trip. They are heavy, cumbersome vehicles — and in a crash, any SUV, minivan, sedan, pickup, or other common motor vehicle is no match for their weight and size. Add a collision at high speed, and the likelihood of multiple fatalities in a big rig semi truck crash only increases.