Could heavier trucks actually lead to fewer fatalities?

Friday January 16, 2015

As we discuss frequently on this blog, truck accident fatalities remain a major problem on the roads in Connecticut and elsewhere. One of the main reasons truck accidents are often deadly is because of the sheer size and weight of tractor trailers.

That’s why it seems puzzling that a lobbying group is pushing for truck-weight reform that would open up more interstate highways to heavier trucks on the basis that it would improve safety.

The lobbyists point to the state of Maine, which saw a decrease in trucking accident fatalities after truck-weight rules were reformed after an approval by Congress in late 2011.

Essentially, the legislation allows tractor-trailers with six axles rated up to 100,000-lbs GCW to travel on all interstate highways in the state for 20 years.

According to the Maine Department of Public Safety, there were 131 highway fatalities in Maine in 2014, which is the lowest number of fatalities since 1944 and a significant drop from 154 recorded fatal accidents in 2012 and 136 in 2011.

A fatal accident system analyst with the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety said the truck-weight reform “may have helped to make roads safer.”

Now the lobbying group is advocating for more states to be included in the reform with the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA).

If you are still confused about how allowing heavier trucks on more roads could lead to increased safety, the lobbying group explains that it would allow shippers to use fewer trucks to meet demand by better utilizing space in each truck and also avoiding potentially dangerous detours.

“It’s a fact that many interstate highways are safer and better engineered for heavy traffic, and that allowing properly equipped heavier trucks to access the interstate will provide a more efficient route while helping to avoid traffic lights, crosswalks, school crossings and other potential hazards,” the executive director of the lobbying group said.

This will be an interesting issue to follow over the current legislative session. Hopefully lawmakers demand to see the data backing up the lobbyists’ safety claims before approving truck-weight reform.

Source: Fleet Owner, “Maine highway-fatality drop seen to boost truck-weight reform,” David Cullen, Jan. 13, 2014

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