Bigger trucks spell big trouble on Maryland’s roads

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

Bigger trucks spell big trouble on Maryland’s roads

AAA Mid-Atlantic says Congress should resist lobbying efforts, protect state’s drivers and roads by saying no to huge new vehicles

June 19, 2011|By Ragina C. Averella

In meetings with members of Congress and their staffs this month, I was very clear about my reason for being there: AAA Mid-Atlantic is strongly opposed, on behalf of its members and all motorists, to any increase in the size and weight of tractor-trailer trucks. The trucks we see every day on I-95 and the Baltimore Beltway are plenty big already.

I am supported in this position by a December 2010 Maryland public opinion poll, commissioned by AAA Mid-Atlantic. The poll showed 85 percent of Maryland drivers opposing any increase to the size or weight of tractor-trailer trucks, with 70 percent of respondents stating they are “strongly opposed” to any such move. Yet, Congress is being heavily lobbied to do just that. A measure to increase the maximum weight of these giant trucks — currently 80,000 pounds — by an additional 17,000 pounds (that’s 81/2 tons) is being considered for inclusion in the upcoming national surface transportation funding bill. Lobbyists are also urging Congress to lift a freeze on triple-trailer trucks — vehicles that move across traffic lanes in a snakelike motion and can stretch longer than 110 feet.

In our more than 100 years of advocating for safety on the roads, AAA has always pushed hard for measures that save lives and increase the well-being of all motorists. That means we do not believe commerce trumps safety. The truck size and weight increase is being pushed by lobbyists for large corporations, trucking companies and their supporters in Congress as a way for trucking companies to operate more profitably. At what cost, we ask? Is a more profitable business worth endangering the lives of millions of motorists?

Despite significant improvement in truck crash rates, large trucks on the road today have a fatal crash involvement rate 40 percent higher than that of passenger vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Increasing the weight or size of trucks will only make trucks more dangerous. In its 2000 Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) pointed out that heavier trucks tend to have a higher center of gravity because the additional weight is typically added vertically. This higher center of gravity increases the risk of rollovers and creates concern about the ability of truck operators to maintain their brakes with heavier loads. This could drastically affect the stopping distance of these trucks. The Department of Transportation also found that the risks of long-doubles and triple-trailer trucks increased the likelihood of trailer sway, as well as the possibility of a higher overall fatal crash rate than single-trailer trucks.

In addition to motorist safety, there are also concerns about the impact heavier trucks would have on our roads and bridges, which are already severely stressed. As it is, there is not enough money to repair or rebuild our transportation infrastructure. Maryland, for example, has more than 1,322 highway bridges classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the Department of Transportation’s 2010 National Bridge Inventory. That’s an important part of the equation, because Congress is considering pushing our roads and bridges past their breaking point with these big-truck measures. We cannot, in good conscience, allow that to happen without a fight. At minimum, Congress should comprehensively study the impact of such a move before even considering passing such laws. Decisions on increasing truck weights by 81/2 tons or allowing huge triple trailer trucks will impact the safety of everyone.

I urge all Maryland motorists to make their voices heard on this issue. It is time to put a roadblock in front of the bigger-truck lobby — and public participation in the process is the best way to do that.

. Find out more about this issue at

FMCSA Fines American Welding & Tank Company


FMCSA Fines American Welding & Tank Company Nearly $4 Million for Violating Federal Hazardous Materials Safety Standards

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced $3,876,000 in fines against American Welding & Tank, LLC (AWT) of Fremont, Ohio for violating federal hazardous materials safety standards.  The company was fined for manufacturing and selling unsafe nurse tanks – a type of cargo tank used to store and transport anhydrous ammonia, a hazardous material used in farming operations.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting motorists from accidents involving the transport of hazardous materials,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are sending a strong message that companies will face serious consequences when they do not make safety a top priority.”

FMCSA conducted a thorough safety investigation of AWT’s Fremont manufacturing plant following reports of safety defects with recently manufactured nurse tanks. After investigating the company’s welding practices and safety records, FMCSA discovered a clear pattern of AWT failing to manufacture, maintain, repair and sell nurse tanks that meet federal hazardous materials safety standards.

“When cargo tank manufacturers are not living up to federal safety standards, we will take action,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Our agency is committed to using every resource available to keep our roads safe and save lives.”

For more information on federal safety regulations for cargo tank manufacturers, as well as truck and bus companies transporting hazardous materials, visit the agency’s website at

Rep. McGovern Receives the Promoting Highway Safety Through Legislation Award

September 21, 2011

Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA) honored US Rep. James McGovern, D-MA, with its Promoting Highway Safety Through Legislation award for his work as a champion of safe highways. Westborough attorney Ted Bassett, Jr. of Mirick O’Connell, LLP presented the award on Sept. 16 during APITLA’s National Interstate Trucking Summit in St. Louis.

According to a press release issued by Mirick O’Connell, APITLA is a national association of attorneys who have joined forces to help eliminate unsafe and illegal interstate trucking practices and reduce the number of serious trucking accidents throughout the United States.

“The recipient of the Promoting Highway Safety Through Legislation is an elected state or federal official who has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting interstate trucking highway safety through legislation. As chairman of APITLA’s legislative committee, Bassett selected this year’s recipient,” the statement read.

“Congressman McGovern has led the charge against the trucking industry’s push to allow heavier and longer trucks onto our highways,” Bassett said. “The Congressman shares our concerns that increasing size and weight limits will lead to more accidents, since bigger trucks are harder to stop. APITLA applauds Rep. McGovern’s efforts to make America’s highways safer.”

In May, McGovern co-sponsored the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act (SHIPA), which will extend truck size and weight limits already in place on Interstate highways to the entire National Highway System. Specifically, SHIPA will extend truck weight limits to 80,000 pounds, cap the length of tractor-trailer trucks at 53 feet and freeze the operation of long double and triple trailer trucks on the National Highway System. SHIPA will not take any truck off the road that is currently operating.

“I am honored to receive this award, which recognizes the importance of making our highways a safer place for all of us — and the next generation,” McGovern said. “We do not need bigger trucks on our highways, we need safer ones. Longer and heavier trucks require more stopping distance, have larger blind spots and increase the risks of rollover and of trailers swaying into adjacent lanes. I look forward to working with APITLA members on many other highway safety initiatives in the years to come.”

Arizona freeway crash: truck loses control, kills 4

by Kelsey Pfeffer – Sept. 9, 2011 06:16 PM
The Arizona Republic – 12 News Breaking News Team

Authorities on Friday identified four people who were killed in a collision involving semis along Interstate 10 north of Tucson.

Three of the victims were from Pittsburgh, Texas, and were riding in a minivan that was struck by a semi Thursday. They were identified by the Arizona Department of Public Safety as driver Derrick Bryan Reynolds, 46, and passengers Wendy Reynolds, 42, and Joachim Reynolds, 20.

Sierra Transportation driver Rickey Duffey, 61, of Fayetteville, Ga., also was killed. DPS said he lost control of the rig, crossed a dirt median and slammed into the minivan.

Sierra Transportation employs 75 drivers and operates an average of 39 vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, adding that the company has a safety rating of “satisfactory.”

Those injured in the crash include semi driver Steve Murphy, 58, who was in critical condition and transferred to Maricopa Medical Center; Dennis Robinson, 56, the co-driver of the Sierra truck who was taken to the University Medical Center in Tucson; and Samuel Molina, 50, the driver of a two-door Honda sedan who also was taken to University Medical Center.

Washington state cannot afford bigger trucks on our stressed highways

Tommie Pillow
As Washington State Patrol troopers, my colleagues and I see first-hand the dangers and damage large trucks can cause on our state’ s roads.

Yet powerful corporations and large trucking companies are lobbying Congress to let tractor-trailer trucks grow even bigger — by allowing existing trucks to be eight tons heavier and by allowing double and triple-trailer trucks across the country.

This is a bad policy that would only benefit a few big companies, while coming with a heavy price tag that includes new highway dangers to average motorists and further damage to our roads and bridges.

In our state in 2005, there were 68 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks. Nationally, large trucks are involved in fatal accidents 40 percent more than the rate for passenger cars.

Here’ s the reality: Trucks are already dangerous. These new Washington, D.C., proposals would make them even more so.

The reasons are easy to understand: Bigger trucks mean more weight and energy in crashes; crashes become severe accidents; and severe accidents can become fatalities. Further, bigger trucks are more likely to roll over, because they will have a higher center of gravity, greatly increasing the risk of roll-overs on our roads.

Then there are issues with safety maintenance.

Larger trucks will take longer to stop. Increasing truck weight will lead to increased brake maintenance problems. In short, a bigger truck is more likely to wear out its important safety equipment sooner, including the brakes, suspension and tires. The equation is simple: Greater equipment wear means a greater risk of accidents.

The safety of motorists on Washington’ s roads and highways is obviously my primary concern and, respectfully, should be top of mind for our congressional representatives as they consider these bigger truck proposals.

‘ Structurally deficient’

Of course, apart from the safety considerations, we need to keep in mind the potential damage to the infrastructure we all share. Larger trucks will place a greater strain upon our already damaged bridges.

About 400 of our state’ s bridges are classified as “ structurally deficient” — meaning they need to be replaced or receive significant repairs. Almost three million vehicles travel over those bridges on a daily basis.

For an example of how a weakened part of our transportation infrastructure can have great impact, the Seattle — or Alaskan Way — viaduct is a prominent piece of our eroded transportation infrastructure that has to be inspected every three months and will cost us more than $3 billion to replace by the time the project is completed in 2016.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, heavy trucks today only pay for 80 percent of the damage they cause. Allowing them to get heavier and longer means they would only pay half of their costs.

I’ ve served this community for more than 26 years. I know Washington roads. And I know that bigger trucks are a dangerous and expensive proposition.

We are fortunate to have Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, serving as members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

That committee will have a lot to say about whether bigger trucks will be allowed on our roads. I urge Congress to weigh this issue carefully before making a decision that could impact everyone on the road.

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Tommie Pillow is president of the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association. He can be reached at 360-704-7530 or via email at

Published May 05, 2011