Longer Trucks May Pose Increased Accident Risk in Virginia
When we see the size of the tractor trailers that rumble across the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the Western Freeway to ports in Norfolk and Portsmouth it’s hard to imagine that they could get any bigger.
But under legislation that’s currently with Congress the trucks could get longer and heavier. And if that was not bad enough drivers as young as 18 could be behind the wheels of these Behemoths.
One bill before Congress would allow each dual trailer to be 5 feet longer, for a total of 10 additional feet. Current single-trailer trucks would still be required to keep trailers 53 feet or shorter.
Another piece of legislation would allow trucks to have a maximum weight of 91,000 pounds instead of the current limit of 80,000 pounds.
And there’s a proposal to lower the minimum age of interstate truck drivers from 21 to 18.
These proposals have pitted safety campaigners and the railroad lobby against the trucking industry that supports the moves. Both sides say their respective positions will make the roads safer.
Railroaders claim larger, heavier trucks – particularly longer double trailers – will make the roads more hazardous for everyone. Clearly the railroad industry has a vested interest but it’s hard to see how large trucks with more blind spots will prove to be safer.
Although the truckers are split over heavier weight limits, they say the longer trailer sizes would mean fewer trucks, and therefore fewer accidents. They refer to U.S. Department of Transportation data that appears to suggest the reduction of miles alone will equate to over 900 accidents averted.
A number of politicians as well as safety campaigners are opposed to the rules.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey from Pennsylvania wants to kill the provision in the federal highway bill that would allow longer tractor-trailers on the state’s roads.
Pennsylvania’s harsh winters and mountains would create more safety challenges on the state’s roads if the 85-foot-long trucks, known as Twin 33s, were to compete for space on highways, Casey, D-Pa., said in a recent media call.
There are currently 11 states in the nation that have approved the trucks, which are 17 feet longer than the double tractor-trailers that are permitted in Pennsylvania, Casey said.
While the Obama administration is reported to be content to leave the current size and weight restrictions for trucks in place, some in Congress want to relax the trucking regulations, either in upcoming spending bills this month or as part of the next major transportation policy bill, which is due to be completed at the end of next month.
These proposals are extremely alarming to me as a Virginia trucking accident lawyer who sees the terrible impact of trucking accidents in the state. If you have been injured by a big rig, you should call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.