From The Truck Safety Coalition… Truck Strikes Bridge in New Jersey, Driver Arrested

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

From The Truck Safety Coalition… Truck Strikes Bridge in New Jersey, Driver Arrested

A tractor trailer became wedged underneath a bridge after the driver attempted to pass through it. The crash caused debris to be scattered on the road, which led to more than three hours of traffic. While there were no injuries or fatalities as a result of this reckless driver’s actions, property damage only crashes should not be ignored. These crashes create traffic, which results in productivity loss, and cause damage to our country’s crumbling roads and bridges, which are repaired using taxpayer dollars.

Link to Article: http://patch.com/new-jersey/holmdel-hazlet/truck-gets-wedged-under-laurel-avenue-bridge-0

The Truck Safety Coalition Team

 

Kraft Pushes for 97,000-Pound Trucks Called Bridge Wreckers

Kraft Pushes for 97,000-Pound Trucks Called Bridge Wreckers

By Jeff Plungis – Dec 12, 2011

Emboldened by U.S. legislation allowing Maine and Vermont to keep 97,000-pound trucks rumbling on their interstate highways, Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) and Home Depot Inc. are pressing more states to follow.

Companies including Kraft, which says its trucks would drive 33 million fewer miles a year with higher weight limits nationwide, say they need to carry loads more efficiently to combat high diesel-fuel prices. Safety advocates say more heavy trucks would accelerate an increase in truck-related accident deaths, and question whether bridges can withstand the added weight.

“You’re starting to roll the dice,” said Andrew Herrmann, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Do you really want to keep these heavy loads, have a lower factor of safety and start wearing these bridges out faster?”

Trucks can weigh a maximum of 80,000 pounds on interstate highways under U.S. law. Maine and Vermont are exceptions under a pilot program that Congress last month extended for 20 years.

The proposed Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, sponsored by Representative Michael Michaud, a Maine Democrat, would allow every state to decide how extensively 97,000-pound trucks can travel based on economic need and the condition of its roads and bridges.

The bill may be rolled into a multiyear highway policy bill Congress will work on next year, said John Runyan, executive director of the Washington-based Coalition for Transportation Productivity. The group had 120 company members, including Kraft, MillerCoors LLC, International Paper Co., Hershey Co., Owens Corning Inc. (GLW) and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., as of Dec. 2. Seventy trade associations also backed the effort.

Home Depot

States are already allowed to set higher weight limits for secondary roads and 44 do, according to Runyan’s group. Twenty- eight states also allow a limited number of heavier trucks on interstates by permit, for certain vital commodities or for shipping containers loaded from ports, Runyan said.

Lindsay Chason, senior manager for environmental innovation for Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. (HD), told Georgia’s transportation board Oct. 19 that 97,000-pound trucks were needed to keep up with a tripling of congestion since 1982 and diesel-price increases.

The average U.S. retail price for diesel fuel was $3.93 per gallon as of Dec. 5, according to the U.S. Energy Department, up 18 percent from the beginning of the year.

Wisconsin Loosening

Wisconsin last month passed a package of nine bills intended to loosen various truck size and weight limits. Governor Scott Walker,a Republican, said the new laws would create jobs.

Companies are trying to win higher weight limits rather than the ability to operate longer trucks, like triple trailers, Runyan said. Adding a sixth axle to 97,000-pound trucks on the interstates, as required by Michaud’s bill, would reduce road wear and improve braking, he said.

“When you’re filling a truck with a product and it’s 80 percent filled, you’re running around with a lot of trucks with extra space,” he said.

Bridge Stress

Companies can partially offset the heftier trucks’ added road wear by keeping the size of the trailer the same and spreading the weight over an additional axle, said Herrmann, head of the engineering group. The extra axle doesn’t offset the stress on interstate bridges, which were designed for 80,000- pound trucks, he said.

Herrmann’s group estimates that 25 percent of U.S. bridges need weight limits or restrict traffic because they’re not strong enough. The U.S. is spending about $10.5 billion a year to maintain bridges, and $17 billion is needed to keep up with the ongoing damage, he said.

“Those bridges already need work,” Herrmann said. “Now we’re saying let’s go back and reinforce all the bridges that need it, when we don’t have enough money to maintain the structures that we have.”

Kraft, the maker of Cheez Whiz and Oreo cookies, would make 66,000 fewer truck trips if the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act were passed, said Harry Haney, associate director of transportation planning with the Northfield, Illinois-based company. Heavier trucks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio would help the company most, he said.

Kraft trucks would drive 33 million fewer miles a year and put 2.1 billion fewer pounds on roads with higher U.S. weight limits, Haney said. The biggest savings would be in shipments of products like Miracle Whip salad dressing, Oscar Meyer meat and Capri Sun juices, he said.

“We need to find ways to use our existing infrastructure more efficiently,” Haney said. “Members of Congress increasingly agree.”

Logging Trucks

Congress last month extended a one-year pilot program to allow 100,000-pound trucks on interstates in Maine and Vermont for 20 years, with support from Weyerhaeuser Co. and other forest-products companies.

Trucks are the only transportation mode that logging companies and paper producers can use to carry felled trees, wood chips and biomass from leaves and branches from forests, said Neil Ward, communications director of the Forest Resources Association in Rockville, Maryland.

Minnesota, Ohio

Minnesota, like Maine, is a border state where industry wants heavier trucks from Canada allowed on the interstates, Ward said. Ohio’s legislature is debating higher weight limits to accommodate agricultural products, depending on what Congress does, he said.

“In the cases where a state already has a state limit similar to what we’re proposing for the interstate highway, then it’s a quick and turnkey operation to get an opt-in” to the proposed House bill, Ward said.

In Minnesota, where a bridge on Interstate 35 collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people, the state transportation department supports allowing either 97,000- or 99,000-pound trucks with six axles on interstate highways, according to a March statement. Interstate bridges are equal to or better than those on state highways where heavy trucks already travel by permit, the agency said.

Safety Concerns

Maine and Vermont officials downplayed concerns raised by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration about the ability of interstate bridges to stand up under 100,000-pound trucks, according to officials at The Truck Safety Coalition, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. The three safety-advocacy groups obtained documents about the two states’ pilot program under the Freedom of Information Act.

“If one assumes that greater than a 10 percent ‘overstress’ is unacceptable, then these results show that every 100,000 lbs. truck is a problem,” a FHWA analysis concluded.

Justin Nisly, a spokesman for the highway administration, declined to comment, saying the agency’s analysis wasn’t final.

Extra fees proposed for overweight trucks won’t cover the costs of reinforcing or rebuilding bridges that weren’t designed for the higher weight, with car owners and taxpayers picking up the tab, said John Lannen, executive director of The Truck Safety Coalition, based in Arlington, Virginia.

‘Ripple Effect’

“The ripple effect will be catastrophic,” Lannen said of the pressure on other states to increase weight limits. “The entire country’s motoring public will be put in grave danger.”

Commercial truck-related fatalities, including people in cars struck by big rigs, rose 8.7 percent in 2010 to 3,675, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Dec. 8. The American Trucking Associations said the same day that 2010 was still among the safest years on record and the trucking fatality rate, adjusted for miles driven, has fallen over the past two decades.

In Pennsylvania, John Rafferty, the Republican chairman of the state’s Senate Transportation Committee, and John Wozniak, the panel’s senior Democrat, warned the state’s congressional delegation that Pennsylvania already needs $3.5 billion a year to upgrade and maintain roads and bridges. More than 5,000 bridges remain structurally deficient, they said in a Nov. 14 letter.

“We cannot afford larger trucks on our roads and bridges,” the senators said.

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act is H.R. 763.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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.

– – –

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

Published May 05, 2011