NEW YORK – The trucking industry is on the rebound and the number of trucks on the road has steadily been increasing since 2010. Although the trend is still far from the industry’s peak in the 1990’s, there’s reason for optimism in the nation’s capital.
A multi-million dollar lobbying push may open U.S. roadways to bigger tractor trailers and, according to some industry watchdogs, more dangerous traveling conditions.
Currently, federal commercial vehicle standards mandate trucks to weigh-in at less than 80,000 pounds and less than 29 feet in length. However, a $55.3 billion transportation spending bill would increase the length restrictions to 33 feet.
“Generally, the larger the vehicle, the longer it takes to stop,” truck accident attorney Ross Cellino said. “Adding more weight to a tractor trailer could make highway travel more dangerous without the proper driver training.”
In 2012, large trucks were involved in thousands of crashes, killing 3,921 people and the number of deaths has steadily increased each year since hitting an all-time low in 2009.
In addition to larger trucks, the bill would extend the suspension of the 2013 restart changes to the hours of service rule until the DOT can demonstrate the changes lead to “significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules.”
Currently, drivers can stay behind the wheel of a large truck for up to 82 hours in eight days.
“Driving logs can be some of the first things our lawyers look at when evaluating a truck accident,” Cellino said. “If a truck driver exceeds the maximum amount of time on the road for the week, it’s not only illegal: it can also drastically increase the chances of a serious accident.”
The House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of setting the 2016 DOT budget recommended the plan to a full committee; which can make changes and/or recommend the bill for a later vote on the House floor.