Will Allowing More Twin-33 Tractor-Trailers Reduce Truck Accidents in El Paso?

Last year, the appropriations bill for 2016 included provisions which would have changed the rules for tractor-trailers on U.S. roads. Currently, under federal law, twin 28-foot tractor-trailers are permitted, but larger twin trailers are not generally allowed. The appropriations bill would have changed the rules to allow for twin 33-foot trailers. Will more twin-33 tractor-trailers increase accident risks?

There are many arguments in favor of allowing for longer twin trailers. However, there are also some who opine this would be unsafe. Even trucking groups are split on whether the rules should change and longer twin trailers should be permitted. While the American Trucking Association has not taken a side, the group Americans for Modern Transportation wants the length limits to increase, while the group Truckload Carriers Association wants the length limits to stay the same.

The trucking groups are divided for economic reasons, with Americans for Modern Transportation arguing increased efficiency and reduced costs and Truckload Carriers Association expressing concern about companies who will have to buy new fleets of longer tractor-trailers in order to stay competitive. However, the issue of allowing longer trucks isn't an economic consideration only. It is vital to understand whether longer trucks would be safer or whether more accidents would happen. The problem is, opinions are split on the safety issue too.

Will Longer Twin Tractor-Trailers Make Truck Accidents More or Less Likely?

The Trucker reported on a new study released by The Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT) coalition. The study was conducted by a traffic safety researcher with 35-years of experience. The research reportedly revealed allowing longer twin tractor-trailers would decrease the risk of truck accidents. Truck accident risks would be reduced for two possible reasons. One reason is because the longer twin trailers would make the trucks more stable on the roads. Another big reason is the trucks would be able to carry much more cargo. In fact, the larger tractor-trailers could carry so much more cargo, the total number of truck miles driven could be reduced by 3.1 billion.

Obviously, with so many fewer trucks on the road, truck accidents would be less likely since there simply wouldn't be as many trucks around. Approximately 4,500 lives could be saved each year because of fewer trucks on the roads, according to the study.

However, a bipartisan group of senators have opposed a federal mandate on twin-trailers. Senator Dianne Feinstein has cited the California Department of Transportation as an opponent of the measure. When the issue of allowing longer trucks came up in regards to the appropriations bills, Feinstein expressed significant concerns about whether allowing longer twin trailers would be a good idea, as these longer tractor-trailers would have a much longer stopping distance and a wider swing, making them more dangerous.

There were around 4,000 people killed in truck collisions in 2013, and 71 percent of the victims were in other cars and not in the truck. An additional 11 percent of the victims were bike riders or walkers.  The fatality rate for 28-foot twin tractor trailers was already 11 percent greater than single trailer trucks, so making twin trailers even longer is likely to only increase fatality rates.

With competing information about how accident rates would be impacted, it is clear more research should be done before allowing longer twin trailers on the roads.