As diesel fuel prices continue to rise, trucking companies are seeking dangerous alternatives in an effort to cut costs. In addition to delaying maintenance and using shortcuts which impact safety, the trucking industry has proposed to increase the size of trucks.

Michael Smid, the president of YRC North American Transportation and Tom Carpenter, the director of transportation for International Paper, have suggested increasing the size and weight of tractor trailers from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. According to Smid and Carpenter, an increase in the size of tractor trailer used would decrease the amount of trips taken by tractor trailers, and therefore, decrease the number of miles driven by a tractor trailer. In his article, Industry Urges Bigger Trucks, But Key Lawmaker has Doubts, Sean McNally writes, “Reducing vehicle miles traveled, Carpenter said, would mean fewer accidents.”

Currently, every sixteen minutes of every day, another person in the United States will be injured or killed in a tractor trailer related accident, resulting in over 5,000 deaths, and over 140,000 injuries each year. While a decrease in the amount of trucks on the road, and the number of miles traveled by tractor trailer drivers on the road is needed, an increase in the size, mass, and weight of the trucks is not a solution to this growing problem. Gerald Donaldson, senior research director for the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said, “More lives would be lost in large truck crashes, more highways would be lost in large truck crashes, more highways would be damaged and more bridges would be placed at an increased risk for catastrophic failure.”
Along with numerous advocacy groups, the Association for American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association also oppose increasing truck sizes, as the risks clearly far outweigh the rewards.

My thanks to Jacquie Bretell for her assistance with this entry.