Giants on the Roads: Bigger Trucks, Lethal Results

During the holiday season, millions of Americans travel on the interstate highways to reunite with friends and loved ones as well as to seek more temperate climates to enjoy well-deserved R and R. According to AAA, more than 46 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during Thanksgiving weekend alone, and of those travelers, close to 90 percent will take to the roads due to the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in five years.

America's Crumbling Infrastructure

Unfortunately, those 40 million drivers will likely encounter headaches in the form of congestion and backed up highways due to road work and rebuilding. Because most urban roads and interstate highways were built decades ago and now carry five to ten times the amount of traffic that engineers originally expected, repairs and the traffic jams are commonplace. In the most recent report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, U.S. infrastructure had an overall grade of D+.

In particular, the report cited the fact that 42 percent of major urban highways remain congested, which costs the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel each year. Moreover, the level of government investment in our nation's roadways fall far short of the $170 billion projected amount in capital investments that would be needed annually in order to make meaningful improvements in conditions and performance.

One significant contributor to the rapid deterioration of our highways and bridges are ever increasing limits for truck sizes and weights. More than ten years ago, the U.S. Senate heard testimony on the problems caused by the culmination of years of incremental increases to truck weights. Testifying on behalf of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, then Director William Ankner stated that heavy trucks are responsible for a disproportionate amount of pavement damage.

Specifically, a truck that weighs 80,000 pounds does as much damage as 9,600 cars yet pays for only 80 percent of the damage it causes to infrastructure. In May of 2013, major freeways near Seattle were closed after an overloaded truck grazed an overhead girder and sent two cars plummeting to the river below. Investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the bridge had been hit repeatedly by oversize loads, causing the bridge collapse.

Over-sized Trucks Bring Increased Risks

Perhaps even more alarming than the national infrastructure crisis that overweight and out-sized trucks pose are their higher crash risks. Higher vehicle weights are also associated with more deadly crashes. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that multi-trailer trucks typically experience an 11 percent higher overall fatal crash rate than single-trailer combinations. Contributing to the higher rates is the fact that the center of gravity is raised in heavier trucks due to additional weight being stacked vertically. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of deadly rollovers.

At The Pittman Firm, we have extensive experience with auto accidents resulting in wrongful death and injury. If you or a loved one has suffered an accident involving trucks or tractor-trailers, call us today for a free consultation.

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