From now through Sunday, September 23rd, the Department of Transportation is asking for emails regarding a proposed new national freight policy which will increase truck size and weight. It is essential that they hear from the safety community that safety should be their #1 priority and that we strongly support retaining the current federal size and weight limits and oppose any weakening of current truck safety laws and regulations, including special interest exemptions.
Thanks to TruckSafety.org, a group that I belong to, and Jeff Burns, an attorney in Kansas City in the Interstate Trucking Group in the American Association for Justice that I belong to for this piece.
Please submit your comments to www.freightdialogue.ideascale.com. Please feel free to include any personal experience with truck safety issues and to incorporate any of the below talking points into your comments.
Bigger and Heavier Trucks Will ...
... Be More Dangerous to Motorists, Bicyclists and Pedestrians.
Every year on average 4,000 people are killed in truck crashes in the U.S. and another 100,000 are injured. In fact, DOT recently revealed that truck crash fatalities increased by 9% in 2010. In creating a national freight policy, DOT needs to seriously address this unacceptable increase and take action to protect motorists and truck drivers.
The chances of a big truck crash resulting in deaths and serious injuries increase with each extra ton over the 80,000 lb. federal limit.
Heavier trucks take longer to brake and are more prone to rollover in crashes.
Unmaintained braking systems are already a leading factor in truck crashes. Allowing bigger, heavier trucks will increase the rate of wear and amplify the severity of collisions occurring when brakes under-perform from lack of maintenance.
We urge DOT to take heed of these results while cultivating a national freight policy.
... Cause More Damage to Our Fragile Infrastructure and Increase Costs to Tax Payers.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our nation a grade of D on our infrastructure. Our roads were graded D- and bridges, C. DOT needs to take action to address these dangerous conditions as it creates a national freight policy. (ASCE Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2009)
Allowing giant trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds on U.S. roads and bridges would radically increase damage to highway pavement and bridges as was seen during the VT pilot program. "The pilot loading results in a 59 percent increase in damage due to Class 10 trucks." (Vermont Pilot Program Final Report)
Increases in truck weight limits will often exceed the design criteria that were used when a bridge was constructed. Adding an extra axle to 97,000 trucks does nothing to limit the increased wear and tear they will cause to bridges.
"Using Vermont truck weight data applied to these national average costs, a fully loaded, 80,000-lb 5-axle combination truck incurs 21.5 cents of pavement costs per-mile on the Interstate system and 32.9 cents per mile on other highways. A typical 99,000-lb 6-axle pilot vehicle requires pavement expenditures of 34.5 cents per mile of travel on the Interstate system and about 53.6 cents per mile of travel off the Interstate system-about 63% more per vehicle mile and about 32% more per ton-mile than a fully loaded 5-axle vehicle." (Vermont Pilot Program Final Report)
... Inflict More Destruction to the Environment.
Increases to truck size and weight will not decrease the number of trips, result in fewer miles traveled, or improve safety by reducing the number of trucks on the highways. The number of trucks on U.S. highways has consistently grown over the past few decades even after several increases in both the sizes and weights of large trucks. (FMCSA 2004 and 2003; Truck/Vehicle Inventory Survey, U.S. Bureau of the Census)
Heavy trucks are highly energy-inefficient users of diesel fuel. (National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission: Transportation for Tomorrow, December 2007)
U.S. DOT found that a 5- or 6-axle semi-trailer combination truck weighing 100,000 pounds rather than 80,000 pounds suffered a 10.4 percent reduction in diesel fuel mileage. (U.S. DOT Western Uniformity Scenario Analysis 2004)
Within transportation, truck freight represents the fastest growing mode of pollution producing more than 220 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
There are more environmentally sound ways of moving freight that do not depend on large trucks. "A freight train can move a ton of freight an average of 436 miles on a single gallon of fuel. That's almost four times as far as it could move by truck."
I have been representing drivers injured by 18 wheelers and commercial trucks for over 32 years, and believe me, they are already big enough.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.