Letter to Senator Reid in Response Carl Pope Letter

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

Letter to Senator Reid in Response Carl Pope Letter

August 6, 2015

The Honorable Harry Reid

Minority Leader

United State Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Dear Senator Reid:

Thank you for your longstanding and ongoing leadership on highway and auto safety. We have been made aware of a letter recently sent to you regarding purported environmental and safety impacts of the proposal being advanced by FedEx and a few other trucking and delivery service companies to force states to allow double 33-foot tractor trailer trucks (double 33s) on their roads and highways (Letter from Carl Pope dated July 25, 2015). Unfortunately this letter contains numerous untruths, parrots industry propaganda, and underscores Mr. Pope’s lack of knowledge regarding the safety problems of large trucks, the increased damage to roads and bridges they will inflict, and general freight transportation issues.

Mr. Pope supports consideration of double 33s in place of the current national standard 28-foot trailers, but Mr. Pope’s facts are incomplete or incorrect. Mr. Pope’s letter asserts, “I have found no evidence in the testimony and submissions of those who opposed this change that it will impair safety…” showing that he is unaware of the studies that have found that the use of multiple trailers is associated with an 11% higher crash rate compared to single trailer combinations.[1] This statement also completely ignores the recent U.S. Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study (DOT Study) that concludes there is a “profound” lack of data from which to quantify the safety impact of double 33s and consequently recommends that no changes in the relevant truck size and weight laws and regulations be considered until data limitations are overcome.[2]

Furthermore, Mr. Pope writes, “I have found no evidence in the testimony and submission of those who oppose this change that it will…increase wear and tear on our roads…” This statement overlooks the fact that the DOT Study stated that an empty double 33-foot trailer weighs 2,362 pounds more than an empty double 28-foot trailer,[3] increasing the overall and axle weights which inflict more damage to bridges and pavement, even when the truck is empty. Allowing longer trucks will also enable them to carry more weight for the same type of freight, further increasing the axle weights and bridge and pavement damage compared to current national standard 28-foot double trailers. Despite the letter’s admonishment that the Senate should allow longer “BUT NO HEAVIER” trucks, Mr. Pope appears astonishingly ignorant of the fact that longer trailers weigh more, and because they can carry more freight, will weigh even more when loaded than 28-foot trailers even if they do not reach the maximum federal weight limit. This obvious contradiction has eluded Mr. Pope.

Moreover, Mr. Pope is apparently not aware that the DOT Study predicted one time bridge costs for strengthening or repair of $1.1 billion for introducing the use of double 33s. This figure does not even include increases in annual costs for maintaining the bridge deck and road surface.[4] The DOT Study estimated that double 33s will inflict a 1.8% to 2.7% increase in the life cycle costs (maintenance) for roads and pavements.[5]

In addition, any theoretical reduction in trucks and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is only temporary.[6] After just one year even more trucks will be on the roads and bridges and many of them will be heavier double 33s which will pound the roads and damage bridges to an even greater extent than double 28s.

The letter continues by stating that, “I have found…unequivocal evidence that it will save substantial amounts of otherwise wasted fuel…” Yet, estimates of the impact of the shift to double 33s on fuel savings are almost entirely derived from estimated reductions in VMT. The total fuel consumption reduction calculated by the recent DOT Study is only 1.1%.[7]  The DOT Study also states clearly that any estimated benefits are so minimal that they would be offset in one year by the forecasted growth in shipments due to the expected annual increase in freight demand.[8] Moreover, the reduction in fuel consumption is only for the trucking sector and ignores the impact of shifting freight from more fuel efficient transportation modes, which in the end could increase overall fuel consumption. Regardless, the reduction in trucking fuel usage represents a pittance in terms of fuel conservation, and would be of little consolation to those highway users who may be killed or maimed as a result of the use of double 33s and who will be subsidizing the higher cost of road and bridge damage inflicted by these oversized trucks.

It should be noted that Mr. Pope’s letter does not address the fact that the industry estimates of VMT savings are wholly unrealistic and are based on a flawed study paid for by FedEx and other trucking industry supporters which assumes that both 28-foot and 33-foot double trailer trucks weigh the same – 80,000 lb.[9] This cannot possibly be true, and contradicts industry arguments that 28-foot doubles do not weigh 80,000 pounds when filled to capacity. In reality, 33-foot double trailer trucks would be heavier both when empty and when full, which undermines the industry’s estimate of theoretical fuel use reduction.

Mr. Pope also asserts, “I have found…unequivocal evidence that it will… reduce the number of trucks on our highways…” Once again, Mr. Pope appears to be blithely ignorant of the fact that increases in truck size and weight have never resulted in fewer trucks. Rather, every time there has been an increase in truck size and weight in the history of America, the result is more, not fewer, registered trucks and trailers.[10] Furthermore, as the DOT study points out, any theoretical reduction in the number of trucks on the road is ephemeral and will be wiped out in one year.[11]

Finally, he states that, “I have found…unequivocal evidence that it will… make the trucking sector more efficient – perhaps as much as 16-18% more efficient.” This 16% to 18% increase in efficiency is primarily based on the increased volume capacity of 33-foot trailers compared to 28-foot trailers.[12] Yet, for this theoretical efficiency to be achieved, every shipment must move with perfect efficiency from a 28-foot trailer to a 33-foot trailer. Current inefficiencies in the system, like empty (deadhead) trips, would further cut into this predicted efficiency when heavier and larger double 33-foot trailers travel empty or below capacity, and at the same time waste more fuel during these trips. Moving goods by rail has consistently been shown to be more fuel efficient, with rail fuel efficiency ranging anywhere from two to more than five times the fuel efficiency of trucks.[13] Increasing truck size and likely shifting freight from more fuel efficient modes to trucks could end up increasing overall fuel consumption.

We urge the Senate to require that more information and data are collected on the safety and infrastructure impacts a change in national transportation policy on truck lengths would cause. The “Feinstein-Wicker” amendment would accomplish this critically important step before moving forward with a rulemaking. Considering that truck crash fatalities have been on the rise the last four years (2009-2013), moving commercial motor vehicle safety laws and regulations in an unsafe direction is not sound and could result in even more needless deaths and injuries.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these surface transportation safety issues. We look forward to continuing to work together with you to advance safer roads and highways for our nation’s motorists.

Sincerely,

John Lannen, Executive Director

Truck Safety Coalition

 

Joan Claybrook, Chair

Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and

Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

 

Jacqueline Gillan, President

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

 

Daphne Izer

Lisbon, ME

Founder, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT)

Mother of Jeff Izer, Killed in a truck crash 10/10/93

 

Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director

Center for Auto Safety

 

Andrew McGuire, Executive Director

Trauma Foundation

 

Jennifer Tierney

Kernersville, NC

Board Member, CRASH

Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC)

Daughter of James Mooney

Killed in a truck crash 9/20/83

 

Officer Robert Mills

Fort Worth Texas Police Department

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement

 

Investigator Wes Bement

Grand Prairie, TX Police Dept.

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement

 

Officer Kevin Cordell

Burleson, TX Police Dept.

 

Jane Mathis

St. Augustine, FL

Board Member, PATT

Mother of David Mathis

Mother-in-Law of Mary Kathryn Mathis

Killed in a truck crash 3/25/04

 

Tami Friedrich Trakh

Corona, CA

Board Member, CRASH

Sister of Kris Mercurio, Sister-in-Law of Alan Mercurio, Aunt of Brandie Rooker & Anthony Mercurio

Killed in a truck crash 12/27/89

 

Larry Liberatore

Severn, MD

Board Member, PATT

Father of Nick Liberatore

Killed in a truck crash 6/9/97

 

Linda Wilburn

Weatherford, OK

Board Member, PATT

Mother of Orbie Wilburn

Killed in a truck crash 9/2/02

 

Laurie and Randall Higginbotham

Memphis, TN

Volunteers, Truck Safety Coalition

Parents of Michael Higginbotham

Killed in a truck crash, 11/18/14

 

Dawn King

Davisburg, MI

Board Member, CRASH

Daughter of Bill Badger

Killed in truck crash 12/23/04

 

Ed Slattery

Lutherville, MD

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Husband of Susan Slattery

Killed in a truck crash 8/16/10

Sons Matthew & Peter Slattery critically injured

 

Kate Brown

Gurnee, IL

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Graham Brown

Injured in a truck crash 5/2/05

 

Marianne and Jerry Karth

Rocky Mount, NC

Volunteers, Truck Safety Coalition

Parents of AnnaLeah and Mary Karth

Killed in a truck crash 5/4/13

 

Frank and Marchelle Wood

Falls Church, VA

Volunteers, Truck Safety Coalition

Parents of Dana Wood

Killed in a truck crash 10/15/02

 

Jackie Novak

Edneyville, NC

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Charles “Chuck” Novak

Killed in a truck crash 10/24/10

 

Bruce King

Davisburg, MI

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Son-in-law of Bill Badger

Killed in truck crash 12/23/04

 

Ron Wood

Washington, D.C.

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Son of Betsy Wood, Brother of Lisa Wood Martin, Uncle of Chance, Brock, and Reid Martin

Killed in a truck crash 9/20/04

 

Gary Wilburn

Weatherford, OK

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Father of Orbie Wilburn

Killed in a truck crash 9/2/02

 

Melissa Gouge

Washington, D.C.

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Cousin of Amy Corbin

Killed in a truck crash 8/18/97

 

Julie Branon Magnan

South Burlington, VT

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Injured in a truck crash 01/31/02

Wife of David Magnan

Killed in a truck crash 01/31/02

 

Nancy Meuleners

Bloomington, MN

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Injured in a truck crash 12/19/89

 

Cindy Southern

Cleveland, TN

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Wife of James Whitaker, sister-in-law Anthony Hixon and aunt of Amber Hixon

Killed in a truck crash 9/18/09

 

Kim Telep

Harrisburg, PA

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Wife of Bradley Telep

Killed in a truck crash 8/29/12

 

Christina Mahaney

Jackman, ME

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Injured in a truck crash 7/19/2011

Mother of Liam Mahaney

Killed in a truck crash 7/19/2011

 

Sandra Lance

Chesterfield, VA

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Kristen Belair

Killed in a truck crash 8/26/09

 

Alan Dana

Plattsburgh, NY

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Son of Janet Dana, Uncle of Caitlyn & Lauryn Dana, Brother-in-law of Laurie Dana

Killed in a truck crash 7/19/12

 

Lisa Shrum

Fayette, MO

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Daughter of Virginia Baker, Step-daughter of Randy Baker

Killed in a truck crash 10/10/06

 

Henry Steck

Homer, NY

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

 

References:

[1] An Analysis of Truck Size and Weight: Phase I – Safety, Multimodal Transportation & Infrastructure Consortium, November 2013; Memorandum from J. Matthews, Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute, Sep. 29, 2014; The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study: Volume III Scenario Analysis, Chapter VIII: Safety, FHWA-PL-00-029 (Volume III) (August 2000).

[2] DOT Transmittal letters to Congress, June 5, 2015.

[3] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Modal Shift Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table 22, p. 52 (June 2015).

[4] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Bridge Structure Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table ES-2, p. ES-7 (June 2015).

[5] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Pavement Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table ES-2, p. ES-8 (June 2015).

[6] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary, p. ES-5 (June 2015).

[7] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Modal Shift Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table 24, p. 54 (June 2015).

[8] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary, p. ES-5 (June 2015).

[9] Woodrooffe, J., De Pont, J., (2011, April 11) Comparative Performance Evaluation of Proposed 33 ft Double Trailers Combinations with Existing 28 ft Double Trailers, p. 19.

[10] Traffic Safety Facts 2013: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System, DOT HS 812 139, Table 9, p. 34, NHTSA (2015).

[11] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary, p. ES-5 (June 2015).

[12] Woodrooffe, J., De Pont, J., Comparative Performance Evaluation of Proposed 33 ft Double Trailers Combinations with Existing 28 ft Double Trailers, p. 20. (April 11, 2011)

[13] Comparative Evaluation of Rail and Truck Fuel Efficiency on Competitive Corridors, Federal Railroad Administration, Nov. 19, 2009.