By: Alexander C. Trueblood, Attorney
It doesn’t take a deep dive into semi-truck accident statistics to learn that the sheer size and weight of these vehicles contributes to the devastating impact and severity of injuries suffered by occupants of passenger vehicles involved in a crash. According to Indiana State Police crash records, fatal injuries involving large commercial vehicles including semi-trucks have increased 4.9% from 2010 to 2014. Additionally, the number of people who have suffered incapacitating injuries involving a collision with a commercial truck have also increased 15.1% during that same timeframe. Overall, economic costs of motor vehicle collisions in Indiana approached $3.8 billion in 2014.
Truck size & weight affects more than driver safety
In 2015, Congress debated a proposed amendment to a highway funding bill that would allow states to decide whether or not to increase the cargo limit for commercial vehicles and semi-trucks. This amendment generated a great deal of discussion among lawmakers, trucking companies, safety advocates, and the general public due to concerns about highway safety and costs of maintaining highway infrastructure.
The amendment sought to increase the federal gross vehicle weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles rather than the standard of five axles. The standard single length semi-trailer is 53 feet long. Carriers who pull double trailers typically use two 28-foot trailers that are linked together. An increase to federal gross vehicle weight would also increase the length of the trailer being pulled, with one proposal calling for increasing the size limit for double trailers from 28 to 33 feet each.
Trucking companies have argued in favor of the amendment stating that increasing the capacity of semi-trucks will decrease the number of semi-trucks on the highways as each vehicle will be able to transport more goods. These proponents also argue that heavier trucks will actually be safer, as these trucks have more axles that bear the weight of the load as well as more brakes that help slow the vehicle.
Safety advocates and some lawmakers argue that increasing the federal gross vehicle weight limit to 91,000 pounds puts drivers of passenger vehicles at an increased safety risk and causes more wear and tear on infrastructure. A major concern is that longer, heavier trucks would require more time and distance to stop safely. This is a critical concern not only for the operators of semi-trucks but also for the drivers who surround them on highways, interstates, and toll roads.
Ultimately, the House of Representatives rejected the amendment to the highway funding bill in a 187- 236 vote.
How can drivers protect themselves from semi-truck collisions?
Whether the number or size of semi-trucks on Indiana highways increases, decreases, or stays the same, passenger vehicle drivers who share the roads with these commercial trucks are at risk for serious injury if a collision occurs. Motorists who are injured in semi-truck crashes should contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help in seeking compensation for their injuries. I have experience helping seriously injured people and can travel to your home or hospital room to learn about your situation and advise you of your legal rights and options. If you’d like to learn more about the types of personal injury cases Cohen & Malad, LLP handles, click here or call me directly at 317-636-6481.