Mississippi, along with 39 other American states, prohibit bigger trailers from traveling on their highways and roads. Currently, double trailers are limited in length to 28 feet. However, that may soon change if legislators in Congress have their way. Recently, the transportation commissioners in Mississippi have urged Sen. Thad Cochran to vote down proposed regulations that would force every state to permit larger double-trailer 18 wheelers on all state roads and federal highways.
Currently, tractor-trailers are limited to 58 feet in total maximum length. However, the proposed transportation bill is expected to extend the maximum length to 85 feet for double trailers. While this is expected to increase transportation efficiency and reduce costs, it may come at a huge price by reducing safety to other motorists on American roads. This is because tandem trucks require an extensive distance to come to a complete stop on freeways, which on average takes one tenth of a mile or 542 feet – nearly the length of two football fields.
The Need for Double Trailers
The issue to allow longer double trailers on all American roads has split factions in the trucking industry. This is because many companies with fleets of mostly single 53 foot trailers oppose the regulation that would allow bigger double trailers on all American roads and increase competition.
Primarily, the majority of companies interested in enacting the regulation involves numerous large US carriers who transport smaller freight shipments nationwide. Some of these companies include Conway Freight, UPS and FedEx. These new carrier regulations will reduce the amount of fuel the trucking fleet burns on each trip by reducing the number of commercial vehicles required to transport their smaller shipments.
Alternatively, highway safety advocates are pushing back by alleging that the larger trailers could make it significantly more dangerous to drivers sharing the roadway. The advocates believe the lack of funding to maintain America’s infrastructure has already compromised roadways and bridges, which has led to its state of disrepair. Additionally, they believe most roads were not designed to handle the complicated issues of larger, longer and heavier rigs.
Increased Blind Spots Could Cause Problems
Opponents of the bill also suggest that the blind spot on many large rigs will be substantially bigger as compared to the blind spots on 53 foot tractor-trailers. They believe the increase in the size of blind spots could potentially increase the risk of having an accident with a truck that is carrying heavier loads on longer trailers. In addition, inclement weather, limited visibility and the extended distance required to stop could be major factors that causes catastrophic accidents involving injuries and death.
Today, many of the bigger trucks traveling America’s roadways are operated by younger drivers that lack years of experience. Recently, the U.S. Congress considered allowing 18-year-olds to operate tractor-trailers in an effort to fill the serious shortfall of drivers in an expanding trucking industry. It is thought that inexperienced drivers have boosted accident numberswhere100,000 individuals are injured and 4000 victims lose their lives each year in truck-related collisions nationwide.
Something Must Be Done
The changing economy, rising fuel costs and other factors are forcing the need for something to be done to limit the number of trucks on the road. This is because current freight shipment levels are expected to rise significantly over the next 10 years that could reach as high as 40 percent or more. Most of these increases are the result of more consumers relying on parcel carrier deliveries in an effort to fulfill shopping orders handled over the Internet. Proponents of the bill believe that allowing trailers to be just five foot longer could reduce truck shipments by more than 6.6 million every year.
Both sides with a vested interest in the debate have chosen Mississippi as a battleground. Some parties hope to sway Sen. Cochran’s vote. However, so far the senator’s office as declined to make a comment on how the senator will vote.
That said, Senators Blumenthal and Wicker issued a bipartisan letter indicating their opposition to a federal mandate to allow bigger trailers on all American roadways. The letter was addressed to Sen. Collins who serves as the transportation appropriations subcommittee chairwoman, who has long supported proposition to allow larger trailers on roads.