Two days ago, freeway traffic was snarled for hours after a multiple vehicle collision that involved a tractor-trailer. For most motorists, it caused frustration and delays during their commute time. However, for at least two people, it involved personal injuries that required emergency medical care.
This wreck is simply a recent reminder of a situation that has alarmingly become a regular feature in our city: crashes involving 18-wheelers that interrupt traffic, injure people, and sometimes lead to death.
Trucks, especially tractor-trailers, are not simply “large cars.” The safety risks they impose on users of our roadways far exceed those provided by automobiles. Their weight is the first difference. While a car might weigh a couple of thousand pounds, a loaded 18-wheeler can press the scales at a whopping 80,000 pounds. The damage that mass can inflict when traveling at highway speeds is staggering. In addition, they are less maneuverable. At 50 or 60 feet long, they take up four or five times more space than automobiles. Plus, their turning radius is much larger, limiting their ability to quickly avoid a traffic hazard.
Trucks fill an important role in the distribution of products. But this service must be performed safely. And that starts with hiring and training competent drivers. In addition, it requires limiting hours of service to safe levels, and issuing well-tested safety policies. Most important, the best intentioned rules will provide no safety benefit safety unless they are aggressively and uniformly enforced. This requires vigilance on the part of truck drivers, trucking companies, law enforcement, and, ultimately, juries, the standard-setters and conscience of our community.