Recently, there have been a myriad of well publicized, severe accidents along Texas highways that have involved motorists and 18-wheelers. In that vein there have been recent proposals in the United States Congress that could have an effect on the safety of the driving public throughout the Country and more specifically, Texas. There is currently a push by the trucking industry to change transportation regulations and allow bigger and heavier 18-wheeler trucks to travel the highways.
Texas currently leads the nation in accidents involving large trucks. The state suffered 493 fatal truck crashes in 2013. Statistics indicate that this is twelve percent of 3,906 people killed that year in large truck accidents nationwide, a proportion that dwarfs all other states, including California and New York.
The current proposal at issue is one that would allow trucks to pull twin 33-foot-long trailers, up from the current federal limit of two 28-foot trailers. That’s an additional 10 feet per rig. Both sides of the argument have commissioned studies and reports that espouse the benefit of their own proposals from performance stability, breaking distances and wear and tear on highways and bridges.
One of the arguments from the freight and shipping industry is that the increase in the trucks sizes to 33-feet would lead to a reduction in overall truck traffic and therefore be more environmentally friendly, saving fuel emissions from trucks. Also, they claim that the reduction in truck traffic would lower the amount of accidents 18-wheelers are involved in.
Critics of the increase argue that the increase in truck size and weight would require motorists to share the road with bigger, harder-to-stop big rigs than they do now, causing more accidents and more wear and tear on highways and bridges. These two factors would lead to more motorist injuries and fatalities and more tax dollars being spent to repair highways. Further, they state that in the past when the federal government has permitted increases in the size of trucks it has never led to a decrease in the number of trucks on the roads.