Currently, there is a federal-level restriction prohibiting the use of twin tractor-trailers longer than 28 feet. There is also a proposal to allow twin tractor-trailers up to 33 feet long, which would make the total allowable length of trucks more than 90 feet long. The proposal to lengthen truck length was in a 2016 appropriations bill, and it has been the subject of much debate among trucking industry groups.
The problem is, there is a lack of consensus over whether allowing longer twin tractor-trailers would make the roads safer or less safe. If allowing longer tractor-trailers would reduce accident risks, the proposal is one deserving of serious consideration.
If it would significantly increase the risk of collisions, it is not a proposal worth considering regardless of the fact it could improve productivity in the trucking industry. More productivity is not worth the price of losing more lives in deadly truck crashes.
Should Longer Twin Tractor-Trailers Be Allowed?
In response to the proposal to lengthen truck length in the 2016 appropriations bills, Senator Dianne Feinstein made a forceful argument against it.
Feinstein pointed out there are already more than 4,000 people killed in truck collisions each year, most of whom are not in the truck at the time of the collision. Eleven percent of victims whose lives are lost in truck collisions are pedestrians or bike riders, and 71 percent are occupants of passenger vehicles. Longer tractor-trailers are already causing more of these deadly accidents. Fatality rates are 11 percent higher with twin-tractor trailer trucks as compared with tractor-trailers with only a single trailer. If longer trucks are already more dangerous, the situation would only become worse if the maximum length of twin-trailers was lengthened, she reasoned.
These longer tractor-trailers would have a four-foot wider swing, according to Feinstein. They would also require an additional 20-feet for the truck to stop, which could mean the truck is far less likely to be able to avoid hitting obstacles in its path. Both of these factors would make longer trucks even less safe, putting motorists lives at risk.
However, Feinstein's arguments are contradicted by recent research reported on by The Trucker. This analysis, released by the Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT), was conducted by a traffic safety researcher who has been doing this type of research for 35 years. The research showed truck crashes would be significantly reduced by allowing longer trucks. Estimates indicate around 4,500 fewer collisions would happen if 33-foot twin tractor-trailers were allowed.
Accident risks could be reduced due to enhanced stability of longer tractor-trailers. In addition, since the longer trailers would allow much more cargo to be moved, truck miles driven would be reduced by 3.1 billion. With so many fewer trucks driving on the roads since each truck carries more cargo, the overall risk of truck crashes would go down. If trucks aren't as prevalent, they are less likely to get into situations where crashes happen, so crashes would be avoided and lives would potentially be saved.