An Inch and a Mile:
Why Bigger Trucks Are Bad for Everyone

By JJ Burns

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the trucking industry is a formidable force in Washington, having spent an estimated $9.85 million lobbying Congress last year. These same lobbyists also contributed $7.96 million to committees and candidates. It’s no wonder that a recently introduced $55.3 billion spending bill is causing concern for highway safety advocates.

One of the most alarming provisions in the bill is one that would lengthen the current 28-foot limit on tandem or twin trailers to 33-feet. While the extra room may not seem excessive, the added dimensions mean even less control for drivers and additional weight on the roads, despite plans to haul lighter objects in the extended trailers.

According to a 2014 study done by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety:

Longer trucks are inherently more dangerous to passenger cars. The sheer size of these longer trailers – which adds at least 10 feet to the length of current double or tandem rigs – has far-reaching and significant implications for the safe use of highways, bridges and ramps. This change could also open the door to triple-trailer trucks using three 33 foot trailers, which would be well over 115 feet long, compared to the average length of a family car, which is only about 16 feet long.

Supporters of the longer trailers cite fuel savings and lowered carbon emissions, even making false promises about having fewer trucks on the road. The fact of the matter is that by giving the industry a few inches, they’ll end up taking miles and miles. Over time, longer trucks create more damage to our interstate and highway infrastructures. Furthermore, the longer trailers, when combined with the equally pressing matters of driver fatigue and distracted driving, create even more dangerous conditions on the road. The highway system’s merge lanes and on- and off-ramps were not designed to accommodate tractor-trailers that, with the longer trailers, measure 84-feet in length. Tractor-trailers pose the dangers they do primarily because of their size; making them bigger makes the vehicles more hazardous: crashes will be more likely, and the crashes that occur will be more deadly.  Finally, it is certain that if extended trailers are approved, bills allowing the longer units to exceed the current national gross vehicle weight limit of 80,000 pounds (so that the extra space can be “efficiently maximized”) will be proposed shortly thereafter.  We are doing all that we can to keep bigger and heavier trucks off the road, but it is an uphill battle.

Road safety advocacy is a core tenet of our mission at Dollar, Burns & Becker. More than simply increasing awareness, we do what we can to ensure a truck crash does not happen to another family. For more information about how our firm can help you, call us today.