With the extensive experience we have had as truck crash attorneys, know that longer trucks mean greater danger on Interstate highways. Others in Florida share our opinion. In September of 2015, the Sun Sentinel editorial board passionately and convincingly wrote about the hazards motorists face if forced to share the road with trucks approximately 91 feet in length. The editorial board hit the issue right on the nose.
Congress proposed allowing interstate commercial carriers the option of connecting two-33 foot long trailers (sometimes referred to as “twin-33s”) hitched together by a dolly to a tractor. Federal law permits two-28 foot long trailers (“twin-28s”). Anecdotally, the editorial board argued that passing two-28 foot long trailers hitched together is difficult. The board noted that these trailers are difficult to overtake or pass because the wind blows them around. The board speculates that adding 10 feet to the passing distance will make passing harder. The board did note that approximately 4,000 people were killed and about 100,000 people injured in large truck accidents annually. Twin-28s already have an 11% higher fatality rate than the standard length 53-foot tractor trailers.
Other evidence supports this claim. An independent study recently published from the University of Tennessee estimates that truck crash fatalities will increase by 200 people per year if twin-33s were permitted on the roads. Additionally, the pavement and bridges over which these huge trucks must pass create additional strain on the infrastructure. The independent study determined that bridge and repair costs would reach $5 to $10 Billion annually.
In October of 2015, federal legislators filed an amendment to the 2016 transportation bill. The amendment removed the proposal to increase the trailer size to 33 feet from the original bill. The action was not taken lightly but rather, was supported by substantial evidence that allowing two-33 foot trailers on our interstate highways is courting disaster. United States Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) spoke about why she and others filed an amendment to the original 2016 transportation bill. She stated that the California Department of Transportation opposed allowing twin-33s because of the difficulty passing these vehicles and inadequate infrastructure to handle the longer and wider trucks. The Senator said at a press conference that the longer trucks need 20 more feet to stop than twin-28s. Additionally, the twin-33s require four additional feet of lateral space to swing out when turning. That additional four feet significantly invades adjacent lanes.
The United States Congress also commissioned a study to be conducted by the Department of Transportation. The Department of Transportation published the study’s findings in April of 2016. In summary, the report concluded that the study itself raised more questions than answers. The Department of Transportation asked Congress for more time to conduct a more thorough investigation. The study did determine certain facts about the twin-33s. If allowed, the vehicles could weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Importantly, the study found that the twin-33s cannot perform evasive maneuvers as well as a standard tractor trailer truck. The study also found that the stopping distance was longer than the average tractor-trailer combination. The study also found that the cost to repair or rebuild bridges to accommodate these trucks would exceed $1 billion. The study’s authors do concede that there is a benefit to having longer trucks on the road because longer trucks can carry more freight individually and therefore can reduce the total number of trucks on the highway.
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