When truck accidents occur, it is often the motorists in other vehicles who end up getting hurt. Of the more than 4,000 truck accident fatalities in 2013, more than 70 percent of victims were not occupants of the truck. In addition, 11 percent of victims were pedestrians or people riding bikes. This troubling data was made available by a group of bipartisan legislators including Senator Dianne Feinstein.
This was in consideration of a proposal in the 2016 appropriations bill to allow for longer twin tractor-trailer trucks. Currently, there are federal rules which generally restrict the maximum truck length. Under existing rules, 28-foot twin tractor-trailers are allowed but larger twin tractor-trailers generally are not. The appropriations bill provision was aimed at increasing the length of twin tractor-trailers so 33-foot twin-trailers would be permitted. This would have made the maximum truck length 90 feet.
Some groups are arguing that changing the rules to allow for longer twin tractor trailers could actually reduce truck accident risks and make the roads safer. There are those who disagree with this premise. Along with the aforementioned group of legislators, some representatives of the trucking industry also oppose this proposal, primarily out of concern for the fact that they will need to update their fleets with longer trailers if the rules change and they want to remain competitive.
Would Longer Twin Tractor-Trailers Improve Truck Accident Risks or Make the Roads More Dangerous?
According to this group of legislators and trucking industry representatives, allowing longer twin tractor-trailers would be a dangerous proposition. The longer twin trailers would increase truck stopping distance by 20 feet, making it more likely a tractor-trailer would not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting another vehicle. The swing of the longer twin trailers would also be wider by as much as four feet.
All of this could severely increase collision risks. Evidence shows 28-foot twin trailers are more dangerous than trucks with just a single trailer, with an 11 percent higher accident fatality rate than single-trailer trucks.
However, a study reported on by The Trucker from The Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT) indicates longer twin-trailers would actually reduce truck accident risks. A traffic safety researcher with 35-years of experience conducted the study, which found approximately 4,500 truck accidents could be reduced each year if longer twin-trailers were allowed. Truck accident risks would be reduced for several different reasons.
The study suggests there could be fewer truck collisions due to the fact 33-foot twin tractor-trailers would be more stable than the current 28-foot twin tractor trailers. The trucks could potentially carry significantly more cargo, reducing truck traffic by around 3.1 billion miles. If trucks were driving this much less, there would be far fewer truck collisions simply because there would be far fewer trucks on the road to potentially become involved in an accident at any given time.
Due to the conflict in theories about whether truck accidents would increase or decrease by allowing longer twin tractor-trailers, it is important that more research be done on this issue before a decision is made which could have a profound impact on the safety of the roads.