At the end of last month the U.S. Senate approved the latest funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT) $18 billion budget by a slim margin. Included in the passage of the bill is a new provision allowing for the use of 33-foot trucks on the nation’s highways.
Another provision of the budget bill makes it mandatory that the legislature finishes up the statutes requiring electronic logging devices (ELD). Requiring standardized ELD devices makes drivers and fleet owners more responsible because records cannot be tampered with the way paper logs have been. This way, records logged in in real time will hold drivers and fleet owners to restrictions for time on the road vs. rest time. In addition, Congress will also decide regarding the installation of speed limiters on trucks. This is legislation that has been pushed off numerous times since it was first proposed, but now may have a better chance of passing. At the same time, weight limits have not been changed, although these were requested by trucking companies and manufacturers.
These are the key basics in the new laws, and business sees them as good news. Industry experts claim that they will improve efficiency and reduce the amount of trucks and total truck mileage on the road.
Opposing this legislation is the Truck Safety Coalition. In an open letter to Congress dated June 12th of this year, the TSC claims that larger and heavier trucks will increase fatalities and damage roadway infrastructure, especially bridges. However, the current proposal would leave weight limits as is. Trucking concerns argue that current use of shorter trucks means overloading the trucks, resulting in rollovers and poor braking and stopping. Industry calculations indicate that overloaded trucks overshoot the stopping point and casualties become unavoidable. Larger trucks could solve those problems.
There are good arguments on both sides. It seems reasonable to us that fleet owners and drivers will be held to regulations by ELDs, and that those owners who invest in larger, more expensive trucks will hire more responsible drivers. Speed-limiting engine controls will also reduce accidents. Using only one truck instead of two reduces the amount of cargo vehicles on the road. On the other hand, given the steady rise in truck accidents over the last several years, regular passenger vehicle drivers have a right to be concerned.
The even larger blind spots for these even longer vehicles are major worries for regular drivers. Remember that unless you can see the driver in his side mirror, he or she cannot see you. For this reason, always pass trucks on the left-hand, driver’s side. Here is a quick video which illustrates the blind spot issue:
For better or worse, a growing population and virtual shopping both mean that more goods are being shipped on the nation’s roads. Until we have separate infrastructure such as dedicated truck lanes on the highways, regular drivers will be sharing the road with these big rigs.
Be “truck smart” and avoid collisions. Remember that you are mostly invisible to these trucks and drive accordingly. Be especially cautious when changing lanes and exiting the roadway, and do not drive immediately in front of a truck to prevent possible rear-end collisions.