Bill to allow larger trucks could have dangerous safety impacts

A federal bill that would require all states to allow longer double trailer big rigs could put motorists at greater risk for accidents and serious outcomes.

As many drivers in Laguna Hills know, large trucks have several characteristics that make them more accident-prone and more likely to cause serious outcomes. Trucks have larger blind spots, need more stopping distance, outweigh other vehicles and lose stability more easily. Additionally, in multi-vehicle accidents that involve trucks, other road users are the most likely to suffer permanent or catastrophic injuries.

Unfortunately, despite these known risks, federal lawmakers are now considering a bill that would allow longer trucks in every state. Critics worry that this change could significantly raise the risk of truck accidents and associated injuries and fatalities.

Safety concerns

According to The Lehigh Valley Express-Times, most states currently limit the size of each trailer in a double trailer configuration to 28 feet. Here in California, each double trailer can be 28.5 feet long, and the total rig can be a maximum of 65 feet long. The new bill, which would override any state size restrictions, would permit double trailers as long as 33 feet each and total rig lengths as long as 85 feet.

Opponents worry that this change could introduce various risks. Research shows that "double-33" trailers require an additional 22 feet of stopping distance compared to "double-28" trailers. These big rigs also have even larger blind spots than regular trucks. This characteristic, along with the overall length of these vehicles, can make maneuvers such as merging and passing more difficult and dangerous for other drivers.

Additionally, The Baltimore Sun notes that longer trucks are more difficult to drive and control. These trucks are inherently less stable and more vulnerable to wind buffeting. Furthermore, most roads and other infrastructure aren't designed to accommodate longer double trailers. The weight of these vehicles may strain old infrastructure, and their length may be too large to allow safe maneuvering on some roads.

Dangerous developments

This proposal is especially alarming given the recent national increase in serious truck accidents. The Baltimore Sun cites the following disturbing facts about truck crashes and their outcomes:

  • Fatal truck accidents have increased 17 percent over the last four years.
  • The number of truck crashes that result in injuries has risen 28 percent over the same time period.
  • On average, truck accidents now injure over 100,000 people and claim over 4,000 lives on a yearly basis.

Troublingly, the bill that would increase the maximum double trailer length also seeks to make other changes that could harm many road users. These include allowing truckers to work longer hours with less rest and preventing the government from increasing the amount of insurance that trucking companies must carry. Sadly, if these measures succeed, truck accidents and adverse outcomes for victims may only become more common.

Options for injury victims

Sadly, statistics indicate that, even if these changes are not made, truck crashes will probably still harm many people in California this year. When these accidents involve reckless behaviors, such as speeding, fatigued driving or improper loading, victims may have legal recourse. To learn more, anyone who has been harmed in a truck accident should consider consulting with a motor vehicle accident attorney.