Prevention of truck accident risks is important. Currently, federal legislation is being weighed that proponents argue could significantly drive down truck accidents and save lives.
However, opponents assert this new proposal would actually increase truck accident risks and make fatalities more likely to occur.
The proposal involves allowing more twin 33-foot tractor trailers on the roads. Currently, twin 28-foot tractor trailers are allowed, but a proposal would permit twin trailers to be up to 33-feet. This would take the maximum truck length to more than 90 feet, which some argue could be very dangerous. Understanding the actual risks is very important because a change to trucking laws that could substantially increase accidents should not be permitted.
Should Longer Twin Trailers Be Allowed?
Research into longer twin trailers was recently released by The Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT). The results were reported recently by The Trucker. The analysis was conducted by a traffic safety researcher with 35 years of experience who took a close look at how longer trailers would impact road safety.
The research revealed truck accidents could be reduced if longer twin tractor-trailers were allowed. One big reason why collisions would be less likely to occur if longer twin trailers were permitted is because cars would be less likely to encounter trucks on the road. By allowing longer trailers, as many as 3.1 billion fewer truck miles would be driven each year. This is a substantial reduction, and with so many fewer trucks driving around, it makes sense accident rates would go down.
The risk of truck accidents would also be reduced by allowing longer twin trailers because these twin trailers would also improve stability of trucks on the roads. Between the increased stability and reduced truck miles, around 4,500 annual accidents could be prevented, according to the research.
This is in direct contrast, however, with concerns expressed by Senator Dianne Feinstein and several U.S. Senators on both sides of the aisle. Feinstein commented on a proposal in the 2016 appropriations bill to allow for twin 33-foot tractor trailers. This could potentially increase crash risks substantially. The longer tractor-trailers would swing out four feet wider than current trailers and stopping distance would be increased by as much as 20 feet. Longer trucks are already more dangerous, with 28-foot twin tractor-trailers having an 11 percent higher rate of fatality as compared with single trailer trucks. If trucks become even longer, even more deaths could happen.
Trucking groups are split on whether to allow longer tractor-trailers too, with some speaking out in favor of increased efficiency and others concerned about the possibility motor carriers will not remain competitive unless they are able to update their fleet with the longer trailers.
Obviously, with so much controversy and uncertainty regarding whether longer twin-trailers will be safer, or less safe, more research needs to be done before any change is made to potentially make the roads less safe. More than 4,000 people die annually in truck accidents already and there is no reason to take any steps which would make the chances of death significantly more likely to occur.