Viewpoint: Put the brakes on bigger trucks

By Sheriff Terry Box of Collin County TX

Special interests in Washington, D.C., have pushed for years for longer and heavier tractor-trailers onto our highways. While trucks play a vital role for our state’s economy, we as law enforcement leaders know that bigger trucks would add new dangers to our roads. I have consistently opposed these increases, and I need your help to stop them from operating on Texas highways.

Several bills debated last year in Congress would have increased the size and weight of trucks. One bill would have increased the national truck weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds, and other legislation called for 91-foot long double-trailer trucks.

Members of Congress clearly listened to their constituents back home: Both of these provisions were rejected with bipartisan support. Proponents of bigger trucks, however, show no signs of backing down in 2016. A Colorado congressman introduced a bill earlier this year that calls for the same longer double-trailer trucks that were just defeated in 2015. While proponents continue to push for bigger trucks, polls show that voters overwhelmingly oppose them.

In fact, a 2015 poll found that 76 percent of respondents opposed longer and heavier trucks. Even a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) study released in 2015 recommended that Congress reject longer and heavier trucks. In the study, USDOT published several alarming findings.

Regarding heavier trucks, it found in limited state testing that trucks weighing up to 91,000 pounds have 47 percent higher crash rates, and trucks weighing up to 97,000 pounds have 99 to 400 percent higher crash rates. Regarding longer trucks, it found that longer double trailers needed at least 22 additional feet to stop compared to twin-trailer trucks on the road today.

As a motorist, I find these statistics disturbing. As a law enforcement officer, my experience tells me that the story on bigger trucks is even more serious. Tractor-trailers can have worn brakes, defective equipment, and uneven loadings—these are all factors that make a truck more dangerous. Throwing additional weight and length into the mix means a recipe for disaster.

Protecting the safety of the motoring public is one of our top priorities as law enforcement leaders, especially considering that our families share these roads, not to mention that our law enforcement colleagues would be at greater risk on roadsides as they conduct their work. We had 14,485 large-truck crashes in 2014, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Even more, 576 people lost their lives in large-truck crashes statewide in 2014, and 8,443 people sustained injuries.

Longer or heavier trucks would only mean further endangering our state’s motorists. Lobbyists in Austin are urging the Texas Legislature to allow heavier trucks on our State and local roads.

This proposal would create serious safety issues and further endanger Texas Motorists. With Congress rejecting heavier trucks on Interstates, approving this proposal in Texas would mean the heaviest trucks would operate off of the Interstates and on State roads, through our towns and communities.

Join with me in halting the tide of longer and heavier trucks. Please write or call our U.S. Senators and U.S. House Representative, as well as, your State Senator and State Representative and let them know you oppose bigger tractor-trailers on Texas highways.

Contact Rick Cowan at (214) 491-7454 or rcowan@cabt.org  to learn how you can voice your opposition to bigger trucks. You can also connect with CABT by visiting cabt.org, “liking” CABT on Facebook at facebook.com/nobiggertrucks, or following CABT on Twitter at twitter.com/nobiggertrucks. 

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