Act now to help stop killer trucks

January 30, 2012

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C.Killer trucks are on the attack, with Congress considering a new highway bill that would permit longer and heavier trucks on the nation’s highways.

Aside from the safety concerns of motorists – and those concerns are significant and well known by automobile drivers who have been terrorized by tractor-trailers even at the current lengths and weights – there is the killer economic impact on railroad jobs.

The railroad industry estimates that were longer and heavier trucks permitted on the highways, almost one-fifth of rail traffic would be diverted – and the impact would be more than 40 percent of lost traffic for shortline railroads.

The argument of those advocating longer and heavier trucks – truck trains of three trailers being pulled by a single driver – is that there would be fewer total trucks, improved highway safety, less fuel used and less damage to pavement.

Each of these allegations is false.

Any motorist who has shared the road with truck drivers pulling two and three trailers – which now are permitted on limited segments of Interstate Highways – knows firsthand the danger to life and limb of truck trains that sway back and forth, blind vision with spray in wet weather, slow traffic when traveling in passing lanes and are difficult to pass when they are in the right lane.

By taking traffic off the rails, the amount of truck traffic actually will increase.

And as for pavement damage, as truck weights kill pavement, increasing pavement damage every mile they travel. The evidence is readily seen in the difference in pavement conditions between the right lane – where trucks mostly travel – and the left lane. Some cash-strapped states have even urged automobile drivers to stay in the left lane to avoid the rough surfaces in right lanes that states can’t afford to repair.

Indeed, tractor trailer combinations already underpay the actual pavement damage they cause, according to multiple studies by federal and state governments and university researchers. Were the weight of combination tractor-trailers permitted to increase nationwide from the current 80,000 pound limit to the almost 100,000-pound limit sought, those trucks would pay barely half of the pavement damage they cause, putting the increased cost burden on automobile owners.

By contrast, railroads pay to build and maintain every mile of their privately owned rail network. Thus, longer and heavier trucks, by taking traffic from the rails, would reduce the railroads’ ability to maintain their track network and likely cost untold thousands of rail jobs from the lost rail traffic.

More trucks would increase highway congestion at a time that Congress has been cutting investment in Amtrak.

There is neither common nor economic sense in Congress permitting longer and heavier trucks – and you can help stop this foolishness by contacting your congressional lawmakers. An initial vote on the proposal to increase truck lengths and weights could occur as early as Feb. 2 in the House.

Railroaders have helped stop the attack of killer trucks numerous times in the past, and it can be done again.

To send a courteous message to your House and Senate representatives to vote “no” against permitting longer and heavier trucks, click here. Select your state, then click on the name of your senators and representative. You then have the information necessary to send an email or fax, or make a telephone call.