Motorists can breathe a sigh of relief as 2015 wraps up because they will not be facing dangerously long double trucks on America’s highways next year. The U.S. Senate voted in November to remove a proposal which would have required individual states to allow twin trailers to increase in length from 28 feet to 33 feet. This is an important victory for highway safety advocates as longer, heavier trucks are harder to control and pose hazards for other drivers.
Why Double Trucks Are Dangerous and Expensive
The trucking industry has been pushing for bigger trucks for years. While states have the authority to set their own limits on tractor trailer length, federal regulations dictate that states cannot set limits lower than 48 feet for single trailers or lower than 28 feet for double trailers. The proposed legislation would have increased the minimum limit to 33 feet for double trailers, overriding the wishes of 38 states to ban longer trucks from their roads.
Proponents of longer double trailers claim that they would mean fewer trucks on the road, a smaller carbon footprint, and fuel cost savings that would pass down to consumers. Opponents argue that double trailers are costly and dangerous for many reasons, including the following:
- All combination trucks experience off-tracking, where the back of the truck cannot keep up with the turn being made by the front of the truck. As a result, cars driving next to double trucks around curves are in danger of being sideswiped by the rear trailer.
- The heavier a truck is, the harder it is to control and stop. Longer double trucks can carry a bigger, heavier load and are therefore difficult to control.
- Longer trucks are less stable and more likely to roll over with sudden movement.
- Longer trucks are less capable of accelerating to the speed of traffic, creating a hazard.
- Interchanges and road shoulders would need to be widened to accommodate longer double trucks, creating a financial burden for city, state, and federal governments.
The Danger Is Still Out There
Despite this small victory for truck safety advocates, double and even triple trailer trucks are still on our roads. Due to a grandfather clause included in federal load and length limits imposed in 1982, Missouri allows truck trailers to be 53 feet in length while truck trailers in Kansas can top out at 57 feet 6 inches, one of the longest allowable limits in the country.
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