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Trucking Industry to Reignite Efforts to Increase Weight Limits Despite Rise in Tractor-Trailer Deaths

By Allan M. Siegel

In a previous blog, we discussed how roadway fatalities throughout the U.S. are on the rise. In fact, statistics show that 2016 was the deadliest year on record since 2007 when it comes to fatalities on our public roads and highways. Despite this surge in fatalities, the trucking industry is continuing its efforts to push Congressional lawmakers into passing legislation that would increase the maximum size of commercial tractor-trailers.

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The push for larger commercial trucks is not new, and it is an effort that has been rejected several times over recent years, including the most recent defeat of similar legislation in 2015. In the past, we have written about the trucking industry’s many efforts to roll back safety regulations that are critical to protecting public safety.

Even when these efforts fail, the trucking industry’s financial interests in maximizing profits continually takes precedence over public safety, and only produces more attempts to lobby lawmakers and flood our politics with money in order to pass laws in their favor. This is despite clear and convincing statistics that show we need to tighten trucking regulations, not loosen them:

  • From 2009 to 2015, truck accident fatalities have risen year over year, and have increased by 26%.
  • Deaths involving commercial tractor-trailers rose 8 percent from 2014 to 2015, even though miles traveled by trucks rose by just 0.3%.

Even in the face of these statistics, the trucking industry, distributors, and shippers that would benefit from heavier cargo loads are still committed to introducing new legislation this year to increase the size of commercial trucks. In 2015, the failed legislation proposed an increase in the weight limit for interstate tractor-trailers from 80,000 pounds (a limit that has been in effect since 1982) to 91,000 pounds. Put that into perspective:

  • At 80,000 pounds, commercial trucks are 20 to 30 times heavier than most passenger vehicles.
  • An 80,000 pound truck takes 20 to 40 percent more distance to stop than a consumer car.
  • A significant number of fatal truck wrecks involve trucks that have difficulty stopping in time to avoid a collision, such as when there are stalled vehicles, traffic congestion, and construction work zones. In fact, the DOT reports that in 2015, 27% of all fatal wrecks in roadway work zones involved commercial trucks, even though trucks account for just 10% of all traffic.
  • Heavier trucks mean more crashes and more severe crashes due in part to the lengthened stopping distance required by trucks loaded with 91,000 pounds of cargo compared to 80,000 pounds.

A 14% increase in truck weight limits is simply counterintuitive to the surge in accidents, injuries, and deaths on our roadways, and it speaks volumes about the fact that the trucking industry cares more about profits than it does people. Cost not only motivates efforts to roll back regulations, but also the trucking industry’s consistent resistance to changes and safety technologies that would make roads safer for all Americans.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of our lawmakers to prioritize public safety, and to compel motor carriers into doing the same. As such, Congress should refuse to make concessions to an industry that cares more about saving money than it does about saving lives. If anything, increased weight limits should only be considered after the trucking industry adopts safety technologies that can significantly reduce the risks commercial tractor-trailers pose on our roadways, including tighter regulations over trucking fatigue, truck driver oversight, and safety advancements such as side underride guards.

As a firm that represents seriously injured truck accident victims and families who have suffered the ultimate loss in fatal trucking collisions, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is passionate about following the efforts of the trucking industry, lobbyists, and lawmakers. We believe it is our duty to speak out against profit-driven agendas that jeopardize public safety – not only because we and our families travel public roads, but because we have seen first-hand how devastating trucking collisions can be for victims and their loved ones.

If you have questions about your rights following a commercial tractor-trailer accident, you can find the proven support and representation you need with our truck accident attorneys. Over the years, our legal team has recovered millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of clients who were harmed in commercial vehicle accidents throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Let us put our passion to work for you.

To discuss a potential case, contact us for a FREE consultation.