The trucking industry's efforts to get Congress to lift size restrictions to allow heavier trucks on the roads has been met with vigorous opposition from safety advocates, concerned lawmakers and our union.
The introduction April 15, 2011 of H.R. 1574, The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act (SHIPA) of 2011, and a companion bill introduced in the Senate May 3, 2011, is the latest pushback against transport companies' drive to increase truck weights by as much as 20% to 97,000 pounds from the current 80,000-pound federal weight cap. The proposed legislation would extend the current weight limit and length guidelines on triple-trailers to include the entire 160,000 miles of the National Highway System, which would improve safety and prevent excessive strain on the nation's major highways and bridges.
The Teamster Union strongly opposes adding another trailer or axle to spread out vehicle weight distribution. At a press conference May 3 to endorse the measure, General President Hoffa joined the bills' sponsors, Representative James McGovern (D-MA) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), safety advocates and families of highway accident victims. "Our highways were not built for bigger trucks, and exit ramps are too short for drivers to operate them safely," Hoffa said. "When I look in that rear-view mirror, I don't want to see a bigger truck bearing down on me."
Larger trucks are more dangerous to drive. "More than 600,000 of our 1.4 million members start their workday by turning a key in a vehicle," Hoffa said. "That gives Teamsters a real-life perspective on the dangers involved in increasing the size and weight of trucks from their current levels. Heavier and longer trucks mean greater stopping distances and shorter reaction times. And the reality is that our highways and bridges are not equipped to handle the increased size and weight of these trucks."
The American Trucking Association, which supports competing legislation, claims that the trucking industry has never been safer, and that while operating under the current hours-of-service rule, trucking has been involved in far fewer fatal and injury crashes.
However, a recent poll by The Truck Safety Coalition (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers) found 89% of Americans oppose heavier trucks, and 79% support reducing daily driving hours from 11 to 10 hours.
"These big trucks shouldn't be on any of these roads," said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which is funded by insurance companies and consumer groups. "This is a classic case of the trucking industry putting productivity ahead of safety."
Sources: U.S. Congress, newsworks, thetrucker.com, IBT, govtrack.com