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New National Poll Shows Americans Dislike Larger, Heavier Trucks on U.S. Highways

May 14, 2008 

New National Poll Shows Americans Dislike Larger,  Heavier Trucks on U.S. Highways  

Majority Opposes Changing Laws to Allow Bigger Rigs; Safety Advocates Warn of More Deaths, Damage to Roads and Bridges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new national survey shows that Americans overwhelming oppose efforts by the trucking and shipping industries to relax safety standards and allow longer and heavier trucks on the nation’s highways, a coalition of safety groups announced Wednesday.

The poll results counter a lobbying effort by the trucking and shipping industries to increase the size and weight of trucks in a six state “demonstration project,” which would include Georgia, Maine, Michigan, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. The industries are lobbying Congress this week to increase the load limits for trucks in these states from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds.

Bigger and heavier trucks will mean more deaths and more damage to the nation’s roads and bridges, said officials of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.). The groups held a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, which included relatives of people killed in large truck crashes, or who were injured themselves. Also participating were consumer and safety champions U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) and U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.).

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that shows the larger trucks get, the more difficult    they are to control, the longer they take to stop, and the more dangerous they are to the motoring public,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Today, we are telling the trucking and shipping industries that we don’t need a demolition derby on U.S. highways.”

The independent survey of a representative sample of U.S. motorists conducted by Lake Research Partners found that 66 percent oppose changing laws to allow larger trucks carrying heavier loads. More than 80 percent believe that trucks pulling two or three trailers are not as safe as single-trailer trucks. The survey also found that the strong opposition to bigger trucks transcends political party, gender, age, and region.

“The American people have to share the roads with these super-sized trucks and are frighteningly aware of the dangers they pose,” said Jacqueline S. Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Increasing the size and weight of big trucks is an invitation for more deaths and road and bridge damage.”

Each year, about 5,000 people are killed and more than 100,000 injured in crashes involving large trucks. And though large trucks make up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, they account for 9 percent of all fatal crashes. Heavy trucks also cause heavy damage to roads and bridges and increase the likelihood for catastrophic failure, such as the collapse of the Interstate-35 bridge in Minneapolis last summer, which killed 13 and injured another 145.

Among the family members of victims who attended the news conference was Judy Walters from Fort Worth, Texas, whose son Rob Walters was killed in a truck crash. She said she is concerned that Texas, which leads the nation in annual truck deaths, is being considered for the pilot project.

“You might think, what’s another 17,000 pounds on a truck?” Walters asked. “And the answer is it could be a difference of life or death.”

The trucking and shipping industries are pushing for larger and heavier trucks as Congress prepares next year to reauthorize the multi-billion dollar surface transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU). Congress must consider, not only the lives lost in crashes involving large trucks but the burden they put on the nation’s infrastructure.

“Last year’s tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis demonstrated how fragile our already-deficient bridges and roads are, and we should not be putting even heavier trucks on them. But that is exactly what some trucking company interests are proposing – even bigger and heavier trucks on our roads. If there was ever a recipe for disaster, this is it,” Lautenberg said. “Our bill would protect our infrastructure and improve safety on our roads by helping keep dangerously large and heavy tractor-trailer trucks off of them.”

One 80,000 pound tractor-trailer truck does as much damage to roads and bridges as 9,600 cars. Additionally, the cost of large truck crashes exceeds $41 billion per year.

“It defies common sense to let big trucks become super-giant trucks. Missouri drivers are already stressed by the presence of so many big trucks,” McCaskill said. “There are safety considerations along with the reality of increased fuel costs that require us to say no to even bigger commercial trucks on our roads.”

McGovern added: “Larger trucks are not safer trucks. And they aren’t ‘greener’ trucks, either. I have introduced legislation, HR 3929, to extend the common sense limits on truck size and weight and I look forward to working with my colleagues and with all those who care about safety on our roadways to advance that legislation through Congress.”

READ Joan Claybrook’s statement.