This week, lobbyists from the trucking and shipping industries are making the rounds at the Capitol, pushing their agenda to put longer and heavier trucks on the road. Fortunately, some of the more enlightened members of Congress such as Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Claire McCaskill and Rep. James McGovern are having none of it. There’s plenty of evidence that shows these mammoth rigs are responsible for disproportionate number of traffic fatalities each year. The fact is, the larger the trucks get, the harder they are to control and the longer they take to stop. Today, safety groups, including Public Citizen, along with the above-mentioned members of Congress held a news conference to counter the trucking and shipping industries’ call for larger trucks. If you live in Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina or Maine, you should be especially worried.
The industry lobbyists want to make these six states a demonstration project where trucks carrying loads of up to 97,000 pounds would be allowed on the highway. Currently, under federal law there’s a 80,000 pound weight limit.
Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said it is time to put the safety of the motoring public above the pursuit of trucking industry profits:
In 2006, crashes involving large trucks killed 5,000 people and injured another 106,000. What makes these numbers more disturbing is that large trucks account for a disproportionate share of traffic fatalities each year. Despite making up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, large trucks are involved in 9 percent of all fatal crashes. It’s not hard to guess who loses out in fatal crashes involving a tractor-trailer and a car: occupants of passenger vehicles account for 98 percent of the fatalities in these crashes and, unfortunately, their drivers are heaped with blame but are not alive to tell their story.
Beyond the deaths in crashes, there is also the incredible damage that these trucks do to our roads and bridges and the potential for catastrophic failure. Recent studies show that heavy trucks damage bridges at a much faster rate than passenger vehicles. Some bridges are in danger of collapsing, giving rise to the horrible possibility that we might see a repeat of what happened last summer when the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis crumbled, killing 13 and injuring another 145.
For more resources and information on truck safety, visit the Truck Safety Coalition Web site.