Federal bill to allow longer trucks fuels concern in South Carolina

New federal legislation that would allow longer double trailers in all states could raise the risk of truck accidents and catastrophic outcomes.

As most drivers who share the road with large trucks know, the massive size and weight of these vehicles can have various adverse effects on safety. Due to their weight, large trucks need more stopping distance and can cause severe harm to other vehicles in the event of large truck accidents. The size of these vehicles also produces larger blind spots, more instability and a greater risk of rollovers.

Given all of these issues, many Greenville residents may be surprised to hear that lawmakers are considering letting longer trucks onto public roadways. According to WNEP News, a pending Congressional transportation bill seeks to require every state to allow "Twin 33s," or double-trailer trucks that consist of two 33-foot trailers. Safety advocates worry that this could have detrimental and even deadly effects in South Carolina and other states.

Dangerous proposed changes

According to USA Today, supporters of the transportation bill contend that the change would benefit other motorists as well as trucking companies. Besides helping companies lower fuel costs, the use of longer double trailers could improve efficiency and reduce truck traffic. However, critics worry about the safety consequences of allowing trucks that have been compared to trains onto the roadways.

Twin 33s represent a significant change from the truck-trailer configurations that are currently permitted in most states. According to The Times and Democrat, in South Carolina, the maximum length of each twin trailer is currently capped at 28 feet per trailer, and the greatest permitted length for a single trailer is 53 feet. A Twin 33, in contrast, may be as much as 85 feet long.

Likely safety impacts

Research suggests that the widespread use of this tractor-trailer configuration could leave other motorists in greater danger of accidents. Longer double trailers can introduce all of the following safety concerns:

  • Reduced likelihood of accident avoidance. Next to Twin 28s, Twin 33s need at least 22 more feet to stop. They also require a greater stopping distance than any single-trailer truck.
  • Higher likelihood of sideswipe accidents. Twin 33s have blind spots that are larger than those of other trucks, particularly on the passenger side.
  • Greater risk of rollovers. Twin 33s can carry more freight, which can increase the danger of rollover accidents.

Additionally, larger and heavier double trailers may accelerate wear on roads and other infrastructure. By contributing to potentially unsafe road conditions, the use of these trailers could further raise the risk of catastrophic accidents and injuries.

Future accident outlook

According to WNEP News, lawmakers will vote on this bill between late September and the end of 2015. If the measure passes, drivers may start seeing longer trucks on the roads immediately. Sadly, even if the bill doesn't succeed, truck accidents may still harm many drivers in South Carolina. According to the State Department of Public Safety, from 2008 to 2012, over 15,000 of these accidents occurred, resulting in 5,475 injuries and 320 deaths.

Tragically, many of these accidents may involve preventable factors, such as excessive speed, poor truck maintenance or driver fatigue. In these cases, accident victims may have legal remedies. People who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones in these accidents should consider consulting with a truck accident attorney about the available forms of recourse.