May 25–Whatever you wear, eat, drive or otherwise consume or use, probably was shipped to you by truck.
According to the American Trucking Association, U.S. truckers carried 10.49 billion tons of freight in 2015, 70.1 percent of total domestic shipped tonnage. All of that material traveled in 3.5 million tractor-trailers driven by about 3.5 million full-time drivers, supported by another 4 million people in the industry. Those rigs traveled about 170 billion miles.
And, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2015 big rigs were involved in 415,000 crashes in which there were 3,598 deaths and 83,000 injuries.
Trucking is a huge, crucial business and a regulated one, especially relative to public safety. Federal rules limit big rigs to 80,000 pounds and no more than two trailers. States also regulate safety, often including size limits for big rigs.
Shippers and the industry periodically go to Congress seeking to increase truck size limits and to make them uniform nationwide.
Two years ago Congress considered but ultimately did not pass a proposal that would have increased maximum weight by 5.5 tons, from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds. The bill also would have allowed truck length to grow. Pennsylvania limits rigs to 68 feet, with no more than two trailers of 28 feet each. Under the bill, that length could have reached 85 feet, with two trailers of up to 33 feet each.
Some elements of the trucking and shipping industries, sensing the anti-regulatory mood in Washington, have begun a new campaign for larger trucks, along the lines of the failed 2015 proposal.
Proponents contend that bigger trucks would improve safety because there would be fewer trucks on the highway, resulting in fewer total miles traveled and, therefore, fewer accidents.
But the bigger, heavier rigs also are harder to control and bring to a stop, risking worse results when crashes occur.
And the big rigs can’t be confined to interstate highways alone because terminals are on other roads, where the roads themselves and bridges are not built to deal with the weight. Several state highway engineering departments have estimated that the bigger rigs would cause at least another $1 billion a year in damages.
Any who drives knows that the rigs are big enough. No member of Congress should vote to increase the size without first driving among the big rigs, especially on smaller roads.
(c)2017 The Citizens’ Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
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