Innovative solutions are required to address our pressing transportation and infrastructure needs. But allowing heavier and longer trucks on our roadways – as many are pressing Congress to do – is not one of them. This would create an urgent threat, indeed.

Congress is now debating an infrastructure bill. Special interests in Washington are pushing to force longer and heavier trucks onto our roads, and it’s the motoring public who would face the safety consequences. Previous proposals for bigger trucks were defeated by broad bipartisan support in Congress. But the small number of companies looking to improve their bottom line at our expense are back.

These industry groups are asking Congress to require every state to allow even longer double-trailer trucks, the so-called “Double 33s,” which are 17 feet longer than today’s conventional single-trailer trucks. Another proposal being pushed by large shippers in Washington is to increase national truck weights from the standard 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds – an increase of 5.5 tons.

While I understand that bigger truck proponents want to haul their freight at lower costs, that comes at the expense of motorist safety, as well as taxpayer dollars to repair or replace damaged bridges and roads.

Increasing the weight of trucks causes additional wear and tear on their key safety components such as brakes. The 2016 USDOT study found that trucks weighing over 80,000 pounds had higher overall out-of-service rates and 18 percent higher brake violation rates compared to those at or below 80,000 pounds. This is especially important because a 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that trucks with any out-of-service violation are 362 percent more likely to be involved in a crash.

In addition, an influx of double-trailer trucks on the highway would have severe safety implications for motorists. Studies have consistently shown that multi-trailer trucks – doubles and triple-trailer trucks – are more dangerous than single-trailer trucks. A 2013 Marshall University led study found that double-trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatality rate than single-trailer trucks. This finding is consistent with findings made by USDOT in a 2000 study.

There were 2,422 large-truck crashes in Louisiana in 2019 – unfortunately, 89 people lost their lives in those crashes. According to TRIP, a transportation research non-profit, Louisiana’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2019 already is higher than the national average of 1.11 and the eighth highest in the U.S.

When large corporations push for increased profits at the expense of taxpayers and the quality of our roads and bridges, we need to make sure our members of Congress understand the impact on their constituents. Longer and heavier trucks would be bad for the state, and bad for Baton Rouge and surrounding communities.

Please join me in urging our congressional delegation to oppose any federal legislation allowing these bigger, heavier trucks on our streets.

Shannon Womack is chief of police for Denham Springs.

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