It’s a fact of life that we have to share the roads with trucks, and these enormous hunks of metal can pose significant safety hazards. On average nationally, 4,000 people are killed and 100,000 are injured in truck crashes each year. The federal Department of Transportation reports that 3,602 people died in large truck crashes in 2013, and 73 percent of those deaths were in crashes involving tractor-trailers (as opposed to single-unit trucks). Of course, the trucking industry is vital to commerce and, as a business, it wants to move as many goods as cheaply and quickly as possible. However, raising the current weight and size restrictions on trucks doesn’t come without risks.
There are about 1.9 million semi tractors registered for use in the United States, responsible for pulling 5.6 million semi trailers. Each state has its own rules about commercial motor vehicle size and load limits. Generally, trucks are not allowed to exceed the 40-ton (80,000 pound) weight limit on interstate highways. However, some stretches of interstate have higher weight limits because they were grandfathered in when the federal interstate system was created during the 1950s. The majority of states restrict truck length to a maximum of 28 feet. Florida is one of only two states that allows tandem trailers to be up to 33 feet long each, meaning a single truck can pull two 33-foot trailers.
National highway safety advocates liken these “double 33s” to trains on the highway – trains with deadly potential, considering how often they are operated by tired or distracted drivers. Facing a critical shortage of qualified drivers, the trucking industry is already struggling with a young, inexperienced driving force. And it takes a lot of skill to maneuver these huge vehicles on roads that are not designed for large trailers. For example, compared to 28-foot double trailers, 33-foot double trailers:
- Require a six-foot wider turning radius
- Have a 33 percent increase in low-speed off-tracking
- Need an additional stopping distance of 22 feet
- Perform worse in avoidance maneuvers.
An independent study found that double-trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatality rate than single-trailer trucks. Longer trailers and multiple trailers create larger blind spots behind and beside the truck, increasing the risk of lane change-related collisions.
Heavier trucks bring their own set of problems. They have an increased risk of rollovers due to the fact that they tend to have a higher center of gravity because the additional weight is typically stacked vertically. Overweight trucks contribute to wear and tear on America’s already weakened infrastructure. While a single truck can safely pass over a sound bridge, even if it is over the posted weight limit, the cumulative effect of stress on the steel and concrete can eventually prove deadly.
No matter who causes the crash, large trucks pose large problems for small cars. Even at current weight and length limits, a run-in with a semi means almost certain death. Ninety-six out of 100 times it’s someone in the car, not the truck, who dies in fatal truck crashes. In cases where trucks with heavier loads are involved in accidents, those wrecks are likely to be even more severe. Safety should come before profits.
If you have any questions about this topic or believe that a truck is responsible for your injuries, the attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. can help. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout South Florida. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. Feel free to contact us by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.