Proposed truck length increase could prove deadly in Pennsylvania

A federal bill that would allow longer double trailers on Pennsylvania roads could leave motorists at greater risk for serious truck accidents.

Over the last few years, economic improvements have led to greater truck traffic in Pittsburgh and other parts of Pennsylvania. As a result of this increase in freight, lawmakers have introduced a federal transportation bill that would facilitate more efficient goods transportation by permitting longer double-trailer trucks in every state. Unfortunately, there is evidence that this change could lead to more serious large truck accidents, which already represent a sizable problem in Pennsylvania.

Safety concerns

According to The Lehigh Valley Express-Times, the proposal would increase the maximum double-trailer length allowed under federal law. Currently, each individual trailer cannot be longer than 28 feet. This restriction limits the overall length of a double-trailer truck to 66 feet with the cab included. The new proposed maximum limit of 33 feet would allow trucks as long as 85 feet on the road. This new limitation also would overrule any lower size restrictions that are imposed under state laws.

The presence of such large trucks on the roads could have dangerous effects. These trucks have various characteristics that can raise the risk of multiple-vehicle accidents and catastrophic outcomes, including:

  • Greater weight, which increases the energy that the truck brings into a crash
  • Longer stopping distance, which can make accident avoidance more difficult
  • Larger blind spots, which raise the risk of side-swipe or rear-end accidents

The sheer length of these longer double-trailers can also make it challenging for other drivers to safely merge with or overtake these vehicles. Additionally, on top of these general concerns, critics have expressed worries about the effects of these trucks on roads in Pennsylvania.

Local issues

There are a few reasons that longer trucks may not be well-suited to driving in Pennsylvania. The state currently is experiencing infrastructure issues, including 5,050 bridges that need structural repairs, and heavier trucks may exacerbate these problems. Additionally, challenging local driving conditions, which range from mountain roads to inclement winter weather, already raise the risk of car accidents. The combination of longer trucks and these existing issues could prove deadly.

Truck accidents already pose a significant cause for concern in Pennsylvania, according to The Scranton Times-Tribune. Statewide, these accidents rose noticeably from 2012 to 2014. Some counties even recorded increases in deadly accidents of 50 percent or more. Alarmingly, this pattern may only continue if the transportation bill succeeds.

Victims' rights

Sadly, there is often little that other drivers can do to avoid accidents with trucks, particularly ones that are markedly larger than other vehicles. However, when accidents occur because truck drivers acted negligently, victims may be able to protect their future interests by seeking legal recourse. Anyone who has been injured in a needless truck crash should consider contacting a truck accident attorney for further information.