Proposal to allow bigger trucks could have serious safety consequences

A federal bill seeks to allow longer double trailers in every state, which could leave drivers in greater danger of serious large truck crashes.

Large trucks introduce significant safety concerns, since these vehicles are longer, heavier and less stable than most other vehicles on the road. According to CNBC, in a typical year, accidents involving large trucks claim over 4,000 lives and injure more than 100,000 people. Sadly, when large truck accidents occur in Saint Peters and other parts of Missouri, other road users often suffer the worst outcomes.

Unfortunately, federal lawmakers are currently considering regulatory changes that could make sharing the roads with trucks even more dangerous. According to The Express-Times of Pennsylvania, a new transportation bill includes a provision about increasing the size of trucks. If successful, this change could lead to even more accidents.

Suggested changes

The Express-Times explains that most states currently allow 53-foot single trailers and 28-foot double trailers. The combined length of these "Twin 28" rigs is 66 feet. The new bill would increase the maximum length of each double trailer to 33 feet, allowing for a total length of 85 feet. This new limit, which would override any limits imposed at the state level, would represent a huge increase over the double trailer lengths currently permitted in most states.

According to The San Antonio Express-News, some shipping companies have also pushed for an increase in federal maximum truck weight limits. Trucks can already outweigh passenger vehicles by several times, with a current maximum weight limit of 80,000 pounds. Trucking companies have proposed an even higher limit of 91,000 pounds, which could have various adverse effects on roadway safety.

Dangerous impacts

Research already suggests that double trailers are more likely than other big rigs to play a role in serious accidents. Eleven percent of accidents involving these vehicles result in death, which is a higher fatality rate than that associated with single-trailer accidents. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that double trailers are less stable and, according to some studies, likelier to crash. Further increasing the length of these trailers could have all of the following adverse effects:

  • Increasing the vehicle's stopping distance
  • Making passing or merging more challenging for other drivers
  • Creating larger blind spots

Increasing the weight of these vehicles could prove even more dangerous. Larger vehicles take a heavier toll on infrastructure, increasing the risk of accidents that involve roadway defects. Additionally, heavier trucks are less likely to stop in time to avoid accidents and more likely to cause permanent or catastrophic injuries to other road users.

Ramifications in Missouri

Here in Missouri, the current limitation on double trailer size is 28 feet per trailer, which means the proposed changes could have notable effects on roadway safety. Already, trucks and other commercial vehicles cause over 2,000 injury crashes in a typical year, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. In 2013, the last year with data reported, commercial vehicle accidents injured 3,400 people and claimed 99 lives. Such outcomes may only become more common if the federal bill passes.

State and federal laws may not adequately prevent serious truck accidents, but they do provide remedies for people who have sustained injuries in wrongful accidents. When a crash occurs because a driver or trucking company acted negligently, victims may have recourse. Speaking to an attorney is an advisable starting point for anyone who has sustained injuries in an accident that may have involved negligence.