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Dangerous proposed law to allow triple tractor trailers

March 17, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan truck accident attorneys say “bigger trucks bill” is a public safety threat that will increase truck accident deaths

As past-president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Group and current president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association, I am often asked to comment on proposed commercial vehicle legislation by safety groups or media. And sadly, there’s a doozey coming. This time it is yet another senseless House Transportation Bill that’s in the works, but this one will overturn the 1991 federal ban on triple tractor trailers.

The radical new House legislation would:

  • Eliminate all restrictions on LCVs within the 23 states that currently allow them on select routes.
  • Force every state to allow longer double and single-trailer trucks on the entire 200,000-mile National Network.
  • Allow 97,000-pound, six-axle singles on Interstates as a “state option.”
  • Allow 126,000 pound trucks on 25 mile interstate segments by permit.
  • Force every state to allow 88,000 pound auto haulers.

Currently, without a permit, the gross cargo weight of a tractor-trailer combination cannot exceed 80,000 pounds. Federal regulations govern the weight of commercial trucks and address the gross commercial weight, combination weight, axle weight and tire load. I should note that as a Michigan truck accident attorney, many of the wrongful death cases I have handled already involved trucks that are above this Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) weight restriction.

The problem with overloading is that it can affect the steering and braking. This turns a preventable stop into a catastrophic truck accident. For example, overloaded trucks will often topple over on exit ramps with sharp turns. Or upon sudden braking, especially if the heavy loads are not properly loaded and secured, you will see a the tractor-trailer jack-knife. An overloaded truck takes longer to stop. Also, the truck will go slower on upgrades and faster on downgrades. When brakes are forced to work too hard, they can and will fail. And that assumes the brakes and other mechanical equipment are in working order – a very huge assumption considering every year approximately one in four trucks on our roads are found to be in such a dangerous state of disrepair that they would be immediately stopped and put in an out-of-service condition.

Thousands of people are injured in killed in these kinds of preventable truck crashes every year — and the word “preventable” is the worst part about it. They are preventable! If truck companies would not encourage the deliberate overloading of trucks to maximize hauls, then these truck crashes wouldn’t be occurring in the first place. But now we have the ATA and other commercial vehicle lobbying groups exerting the government to make the trucks on our roads more unsafe? After thousands of Americans a year are already killed in truck crashes?

The good news is that a coalition of labor, law enforcement, local government, AAA, safety groups, and families of truck crash victims is fighting the heavy trucks bill with U.S. Representative Jim McGovern and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Joan Claybrook, Chair Emeritus, Public Citizen and Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways really said it best: “Three quarters of Americans say they oppose bigger and heavier trucks on our highways and polls conducted over the past 15 years show similar results. Unfortunately, Congressional leaders are tone deaf to public concerns when special trucking interests come around. They ignore the truth that a state option will produce more profits for the trucking industry and more obituaries for innocent families and truck drivers. The American public will pay with their lives and their wallets for the trucking industry follies.”

Here are some staggering statistics to back up the need for weight restrictions — not increases — in our commercial motor vehicles:

  • In 2010, overall traffic fatalities declined, but truck crash fatalities increased by nearly 9 percent to 3,675.
  • While large trucks make up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, they represent 11 percent of annual motor vehicle crashes.
  • In fatal crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 97 percent of the deaths occur to the car occupants.

Now tell me, why would we allow trucking companies to increase their load limits? The only party that would benefit from this is the trucking industry, which clearly looks at the thousands of people injured or killed every year in otherwise preventable truck accidents as a cost of business.

Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident attorneys in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Truck accident fatalities rise 8.7 percent

Find a tractor trailer attorney

Michigan truck accident facts and causes

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (248) 353-7575 or to speak with one of our Michigan truck accident attorneys today.

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