Group Letter to House THUD Appropriations Committee to Oppose Truck Size and Weight Increases

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

Group Letter to House THUD Appropriations Committee to Oppose Truck Size and Weight Increases

June 12, 2017

The Honorable Mario Diaz-Balart, Chairman  

The Honorable David Price, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies  Committee on Appropriations    

U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515      

Dear Chairman Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Price:

As the Subcommittee prepares for Thursday’s hearing to review the FY 2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), our broad and diverse coalition urges you to reject any provisions that would increase federal truck size and weight limits including the creation of any “pilot programs” or special interest exemptions to evade current limits. 

Current trends show that truck crashes are too frequent and too often are fatal.  In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), this is an increase of more than 4 percent from the previous year and a 20 percent increase from 2009.  Furthermore, this is the highest fatality number, and the first time truck crash deaths have exceeded 4,000, since 2008.  Truck crash injuries are also rising significantly.  In 2015, 116,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks.  This is the highest number of injuries since 2004, and there has been a 57 percent increase in the number of people injured in large truck crashes since 2009. The annual number of deaths and injuries is completely unacceptable and would not be tolerated in any other mode of transportation.

In addition to this massive death and injury toll, our nation’s roads continue to receive a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The report revealed that one of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and that there is a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. Additionally, one in eleven of the nation’s 615,000 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory were structurally deficient.  

Any proposals that would allow heavier and longer trucks on our nation’s roads and bridges will further endanger the safety of motorists, and inflict even more damage and destruction to our infrastructure and should be rejected. 

In fact, attempts to increase truck size and weight limits were defeated during the last Congressional session by both the Senate and the House in strong bipartisan votes.  In addition to documented safety and infrastructure problems, the American public consistently and overwhelmingly rejects bigger and heavier trucks in countless opinion polls.   

Furthermore, Congress directed the U.S. DOT to conduct a Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study in the 2012 MAP-21 law (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Pub. L. 112-141).  In April of last year, U.S. DOT transmitted the completed study to Congress and recommended that no changes be made to federal truck size and weight laws. 

Trucks heavier than 80,000 pounds have a greater number of brake violations, which are a major reason for out-of-service violations. Alarmingly, trucks with out-of-service violations are 362 percent more likely to be involved in a crash, according to a North Carolina study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Tractor-trailers moving at 60 mph are required to stop in 310 feet – the length of a football field – once the brakes are applied.  Actual stopping distances are often much longer due to driver response time before braking and the common problem that truck brakes are often not in top working condition.  In 2016, violations related to tires and/or brakes accounted for five of the top ten most common vehicle out-of-service violations.  Moreover, increasing the weight of a heavy truck by only 10 percent increases bridge damage by 33 percent.  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that the investment backlog for bridges, to address all cost-beneficial bridge needs, is $123.1 billion.  The U.S. would need to increase annual funding for bridges by 20 percent over current spending levels to eliminate the bridge backlog by 2032.

The study also found that introducing double 33 foot trailer trucks, known as “Double 33s,” would be projected to result in 2,478 bridges requiring strengthening or replacement at an estimated one-time cost of $1.1 billion. It is important to note that this figure does not account for the additional, subsequent maintenance costs which will result from longer, heavier trucks.  Moreover, double trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks. They also require more stopping distance, take more time to pass, have bigger blind spots, cross into adjacent lanes and swing into opposing lanes on curves and when making right angle turns. Simply put, bigger trucks mean bigger safety problems. 

We strongly oppose any so-called “pilot program” to allow heavier trucks in a select number of states because it opens the flood gates to widespread disregard for well-researched and wellsupported national policies.  The piecemeal approach also makes enforcement and compliance more difficult, burdens states with reasonable truck weights to succumb to pressure for higher weights, and creates deadly and costly consequences for highway safety and infrastructure. 

Despite misleading claims to the contrary, research and experience shows that allowing bigger, heavier trucks will not result in fewer trucks. Since 1982, when Congress last increased the gross vehicle weight limit, truck registrations have increased 95 percent. The U.S. DOT study also addressed this assertion and found that any potential mileage efficiencies from use of heavier trucks would be offset in just one year. 

Annual truck crash fatalities are equivalent to a major airplane crash every other week of the year.  Any change overturning current truck size and weight laws will further strain and erode our crumbling infrastructure, present dire safety risks and disrupt efficient intermodal freight transportation.  It is critical that any proposals which would increase the size or weight of trucks be rejected, including pilot programs and measures to preempt state limits.  Thank you for your consideration of our position.

Letter to House THUD Appropriations Committee 

Oppose Longer Trucks

Proposals to Allow Longer Trucks on Our Nation’s Roadways Will Jeopardize Safety, Further Damage Our Infrastructure, and Disregard Public Opinion on Truck Size

Thirty-three-foot double-trailer trucks are 10 feet longer than the existing double configurations they would replace and are 17 feet longer than the 53-foot single-trailer trucks on the road today. A mandate by Congress for these longer trucks would override the laws of most states. Moreover, public opinion polls show that the American public has consistently affirmed their overwhelming support for truck size limitations. A nationwide survey conducted by Harper Polling in January 2015 found that 76 percent of respondents oppose longer and heavier trucks. This reaffirmed findings from a public opinion poll conducted by Lake Research Partners in May 2013 that found 68 percent of Americans oppose heavier trucks and 88 percent of Americans do not want to pay higher taxes for the damage caused by heavier trucks.

Longer Trucks Will Be More Dangerous to Motorists, Motorcyclists, Bicyclists and Pedestrians

  • The annual cost to society from crashes involving Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) is estimated to be over $112 billion.
  • Nearly all of the large multi-trailer combination trucks, as well as single unit trucks, examined in the 2000 Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study had worse roll stability,  and in some instances by wide margins, than the standard five-axle semitrailer combination loaded to 80,000 lbs.
  • A study conducted by the Multimodal Transportation & Infrastructure Consortium (MTIC) shows that double-trailer configurations have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single-trailer trucks.

Longer Trucks Compromise Operating Characteristics

  • As truck length increases, passing and merging become more difficult—increasing the odds of failure to pass.
  • Increasing 28-foot double-trailer trucks to 33-foot double-trailer trucks results in:

o   a 33% increase in low-speed off-tracking, and

o   a 22 feet longer stopping distance.

o   This means greater hazards to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and motorists in their path, as well as more damage to infrastructure.

Longer Trucks Will Cause More Damage to Our Fragile Infrastructure

  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that $143 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis over the next 20 years to significantly improve conditions and performance.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our nation a grade of D+ on our infrastructure.  Our roads were graded D and bridges, C+.

Longer Trucks Will Result in Increased Costs to Tax Payers

  • Unintended Costs Will Result from Longer Trucks

o   Highway hardware   costs to assess guard rails, crash pads, rail crossings, etc. and the costs for replacement when assessment determines the hardware is insufficient;

o   Accessory infrastructure   costs to assess bridge and roadway ratings and capacity, to produce and install signs and warnings, to make improvements to accommodate larger trucks, to repair pavement torsion caused by non-steering axles (also called tire scrubbing), and to maintain roadway and bridge infrastructure at increased rates of wear and damage;

o   Truck facilitiescost for improvements necessary to accommodate larger trucks, new or modified weight scales, new and modified parking and fuel facilities.

  • According to the 2007 Transportation for Tomorrow report, mandated by Congress, heavy trucks are underpaying their fair share for highway use. The report also found that user fee fairness could be achieved through weight-distance taxes and heavy trucks should pay an infrastructure damage fee. Moreover, Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, which only contributes $1 billion annually to the Highway Trust Fund—had not been changed since the early 1980s.

Longer Doubles are Premised on “Junk Science” and Flawed Analysis Conducted by Industry-Funded Research

  • The Woodrooffe study, on which many of the safety and efficiency claims for double 33s are based, was produced under contract to Federal Express (FedEx) and ConWay. It contains three serious flaws:

o   It makes the spurious assumption that two trailers of different lengths (28 v 33 feet) would both be filled to equal weights despite carrying different volumes of freight;

o   It ignores the fact that 33 foot trailers would weigh more when empty than 28 foot trailers, which would decrease the calculated efficiency estimates on those portions of trips when operating below capacity or empty; and,

o   It miscalculates the comparative increase in payload (volume) of 33 foot trailers as compared to 28 foot trailers.

Both Law Enforcement Officers and Truck Drivers Consider Longer Trucks More Dangerous

  • In the MTIC study, 21 Officers were interviewed and 20 officers indicated “that longer and heavier trucks would be ‘more dangerous’ because the additional length and weight would add new factors to an already complicated chain of events.”
  • Likewise, surveyed truck drivers are consistent in their opinion that heavier and/or longer trucks impact safety. Eighty-eight percent believed that a higher use of longer combination vehicles (LCVs) would negatively impact highway safety.

Truck Size Fact Sheet – TSC 2017

Truck Driver Killed in a Truck Crash in Riverside County, CA

On May 11, 2016, at approximately 11:00 a.m., Miguel Rolon, 59, was driving a flatbed tractor-trailer eastbound on I-10, when the truck became disabled and stopped on the roadway. Mr. Rolon exited the truck and climbed onto the trailer waving his arms to warn traffic.  The driver of a Fed Ex semi-truck failed to see Mr. Rolon and crashed into the back of Mr. Rolon’s truck.

The impact threw Mr. Rolon to the ground. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

The Fed Ex truck driver suffered minor injuries and was transported to Desert Regional Hospital for treatment. The crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

                                                          WE ARE HERE TO HELP

Bicyclist was Hit and Killed by Tractor-Trailer in Brooklyn, New York

On April 20, 2016, at approximately eight a.m., James Gregg, 33, was riding his bicycle on Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place when he was hit by a tractor-trailer who was driving along the side of him.

Mr. Gregg collided into the rear tire of the 18-wheeler truck and fell under the wheel. James Gregg died at the scene.

According to officials, the truck driver was given a summons for driving an overloaded vehicle. The crash is under investigation by the New York Police Department.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

                                                          WE ARE HERE TO HELP

Two Dead in a Tractor Trailer Wreck in Pulaski County, AR

On May 15, 2016, at approximately 11:40 p.m., Willetta Reaves, 40, and Danny Hollis, 51 were traveling eastbound on I-40, when the vehicle was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer. The impact sent the Cadillac into the guardrail and both vehicles overturned. Reaves and Hollis were pronounced dead at the scene.

The truck driver was not injured. The crash is under investigation by the Arkansas State Police.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

                                                          WE ARE HERE TO HELP

Two People Critically Injured After a Truck Crash in Benton County, WA

On May 2, 2016, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Agustin Gonzalez, 73, was traveling northbound on WA Highway 225, when a westbound tractor-trailer pulled into his path as the truck driver attempted to turn south onto Highway 225 from Highway 224. The two vehicles collided in the intersection.

Mr. Gonzalez and his wife, Maria Gonzalez, 74, were injured and transported to Kadlec Regional Medical Center for treatment.

The truck driver was not injured and he was cited for improper lane travel as a result of the crash.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

                                                          WE ARE HERE TO HELP

 

Middle School Teacher Died in a Truck Wreck in Cumberland County, ME

On April 20, 2016 at approximately 1:15 p.m., Adam Perron was driving a Pontiac Vibe westbound on U.S. Route 302, when a commercial truck driving east on U.S. Route 32, swerved into his path.

The truck driver struck Perron’s car on the driver’s side and continued down an embankment. The truck rolled over to the side trapping the truck driver inside.

Adam Perron, a teacher at Lake Region Middle School, died at the scene of the crash. The truck driver was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where he is currently in critical condition.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

                                                          WE ARE HERE TO HELP

Two Clarendon Women Killed in Truck Crash in Lonoke County, AR

On April 19, 2016, at approximately 9:30 a.m., when a woman identified as Linda Brewster, 47, and her passenger, Lora Piggee, 49, were traveling westbound on I-40 when a tractor-trailer struck the vehicle and a second semi-truck crashed into it from behind.

Both of the women died at the scene and neither of the truck drivers were injured. The crash is under investigation by the Arkansas State Police.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

WE ARE HERE TO HELP

 

From the Truck Safety Coalition … 1 Killed, 1 Injured in Michigan Work Zone Truck Crash

In Michigan, two road workers were installing a highway sign at 5 p.m when a they were struck by a truck. The big rig crossed the white fog line into the work zone, killing one of the workers and injuring the other. The semi-truck driver was charged with reckless driving causing a death.

It is National Work Zone Awareness Week, and this fatal and injurious crash serves as a grave reminder that more must be done to ensure safety on our roads for the men and women that help fix and build them. Large trucks are involved in 30 percent of all fatal work zone crashes. TSC will continue supporting a federal mandate for forward collision avoidance mitigation braking on large trucks, and continue opposing efforts to allow Double 33s, which have a 22 foot longer stopping distance that existing double (28-foot) tractor trailers.

Link to Article: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2016/02/road_worker_killed_by_reckless.html

 

 

One Dead, Three Injured in Military Highway Truck Crash in Chesapeake City, VA

On April 4, 2016 at approximately 4:35 a.m., three adults traveling on Military Highway in a van pulled over to the side of the freeway to change a flat tire when a large dump crashed into them. One adult, identified as Lorena Kelly, died at the scene and the other two adults were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

The truck driver of the dump truck was also taken to the hospital, but with minor injuries. The accident is under investigation.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit our Stop Bigger Trucks page or send an email to info@trucksafety.org.

                                                            WE ARE HERE TO HELP