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How would proposal to “super size” tractor trailer rigs affect safety for the rest of us?

As a trucking safety trial attorney in Atlanta, I try to keep an eye peeled for developments in Washington that could affect trucking safety on America’s highways. One proposal in Congress, backed by 150 large companies, would allow them to “super size” tractor trailers in interstate commerce from a maximum weight of 80,000 pounds to 96,000 pounds.

In addition, those companies and a group of 19 Western governors are lobbying Congress to allow for more “doubles” and “triples” – multiple trailers hitched together than can span up to 120 feet – on Western highways.

Supporters of the proposals say shippers could load trucks more fully, reducing trucks used by 6%, saving 6.6 million gallons of fuel and eliminating 73,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

However, “super size” trucks would affect safety of other motorists by increasing the blind areas around tractor trailers as well as making them harder to stop. While trucks may have increased braking capacity, passenger cars and pickup trucks will not have any additional structural support added to withstand the impact from these monster trucks. Even if passenger cars were made to withstand these forces, it would be impossible to retrofit millions of cars currently on the road.

In addition to consumer safety organizations that uniformly think this is a bad idea, OIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) has stated that the stability of a tractor trailer is “substantially reduced on bigger and heavier trucks.” Rollovers are already the leading cause of truck driver deaths, this proposal would make one of the most deadly professions worse.

A truck inspector quoted in the Wall Street Journal called the idea “insane.” He said he could actually feel the bridges bounce with trucks, and the heavier the trucks the more the bridge bounced. Do we really need the extra strain on the already crumbling bridges and roadways of America?

What do you think? How would this proposal to “super size” tractor trailers affect safety on the roads for the rest of us?

Ken Shigley, author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice, is a board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group, a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers . He practices law at the Atlanta law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard, and has broad experience in catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. He is also president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia. This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.

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One response to “How would proposal to “super size” tractor trailer rigs affect safety for the rest of us?”

  1. Mike Bryant says:

    Very interesting information. I think you hit the nail on the head with the concerns. There are already issues with drivers going longer because they have no where to park. Increase sizes aren’t going to make that easier.