William W. Hurst, Indianapolis Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer
Last month we wrote an article about a proposed bill that would force all states to allow longer Semi-Trucks to travel on their interstates. That article concluded that from a safety perspective, increasing the length of semi-trucks that already have large blind-spots was not a good idea. Now Reid J. Ribble (Republican, WI) has introduced the “Safe, Flexible, and Efficient Trucking Act of 2015” to the House. This bill was then referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit which will take it under advisement and give their opinion on it before it is either abandoned or voted on. So what exactly does this Bill do if it were adopted? Probably not what you think it does based on the title.
This bill would amend the vehicle weight limitations applicable to Interstate Highways contained in title 23 of the United States Code by increasing the maximum weight limit of semi-trucks from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 if they had 6 axles instead of the traditional 5. My initial reaction to this was that regardless of how many axels you put on a semi-truck, allowing it to carry additional weight was dangerous, but there is actually information to the contrary.
As seen in the article mentioned above, semi-truck accidents are caused due to their large blind spots and inability to stop efficiently. Obviously allowing these trucks to weigh more won’t affect their blind-spots, but it could easily effect how long it takes one of these “big-rigs” to stop. Again, my first instinct was “more weight, longer stopping distance”, but according to the research done in lieu of “The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act”, which was not passed, being proposed in 2011 that is incorrect. According to the study a semi-truck with 5 axles (current norm) equipped with Standard S Cam brakes, weighing 80,000 pounds (current maximum), and travelling at 60 mph (average highway speed for Semi-trucks) can stop within 240 feet. Surprisingly a semi-truck with 6 axels (what would be required for heavier loads) equipped with the same breaks, weighing 90,000 pounds (new maximum), travelling at the same speed would only need 220 feet to stop. Plus, allowing more weight to be carried on an individual semi-truck would mean less semis on the road. So, from a pure safety standpoint, this would actually make semi-trucks, even heavier ones, safer due to the extra axel. A study done by the United Kingdom, who increased their gross vehicle weight to 97,000 pounds for six-axle vehicles backs this up, as they saw a 35% decrease in fatal semi-truck accidents and shipped more freight.
So, what would this cost the taxpayers? Well, in several studies that took into consideration road and bridge wear, as well as emissions, it seems that the bill would actually save money. First, there would be less semi-trucks on the road, with weight more evenly distributed to each axel, leading to less road and bridge wear. Second, because there would be fewer semi-trucks on the road, less gas would be used. The only real cost at all would be many bridges would need to be either rebuilt or reinforced in order to support the weight of these larger trucks.
While it seems that this bill would make semi-truck transportation safer, combined with the bill which would allow for longer trucks, it may not. Now, if the truck length bill is thrown out and only this one is passed, then there won’t be a real problem. So, maybe, just maybe, we should look at adding another axle to allow semi-trucks to carry more instead of making them longer.