Proposed legislation could scale back truck safety measures

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A recent study found that use of popular prescription sleep aids increases the risk of drivers being involved in motor vehicle accidents.

Semi trucks, also known as big rigs, tractor-trailers or 18-wheelers, are critical to our national economy; according to federal data, about two-thirds of all goods moved within the United States are transported by large trucks. Unfortunately, however, trucks are also extremely dangerous - and federal lawmakers are currently considering proposals that some fear could make them even more so.

Truck size: a weighty issue

When big rigs crash, they are even more dangerous than ordinary cars and trucks because of their immense size and weight. When measuring both tractor and trailer together, the total length of a semi can reach up to 73 feet. Current regulations allow semis to weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This is about 20 to 30 times the size of the average passenger vehicle in the United States.

Partly because of that vast difference in size and weight, occupants of smaller vehicles tend to bear the brunt of the risk of injury or death when trucks and cars crash. In 2013, for example, federal statistics show that a total of 3,602 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in the United States, but that only 16 percent of those killed were truck occupants.

Unfortunately, the dangers posed by 18 wheelers could increase if federal legislators pass a set of trucking reforms that they are currently considering. Among other changes, the proposed reforms would increase the maximum weight of a fully loaded semi to 91,000 pounds and would permit the use of twin 33-foot trailers, thus increasing the overall maximum length of trucks permitted on the road.

Under current law, the trailers used in so-called double semis can be no more than 28 feet apiece. According to a report from the Star Washington Bureau, a semi with 33-foot twin trailers needs about 22 feet more to stop than one with 28-foot twin trailers. Longer double semis are also harder to control and are more likely to be involved in dangerous rollover and jackknife accidents than single-trailer semis.

Proposal brings up other truck safety concerns

Along with the proposed increase in maximum truck size and weight, there are a number of other provisions in the pending legislation that some say could put motorists at further risk of truck accidents. Among others, these include:

  • Lowering the minimum age for commercial truck drivers from 21 to 18
  • Increasing the maximum number of working hours for truck drivers from 70 to 82 hours per week
  • Decreasing the mandatory rest periods between shifts

Truck drivers and trucking companies are often under great pressure to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that they cut corners on safety in order to do so, and all too often it is other motorists who are forced to pay the price.

If you or a family member has been injured in a crash with a semi or other large truck, there may be compensation available to help you recover for the physical, emotional and financial losses you have suffered. Contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Subin Associates, LLC, to find out about your legal rights and options.