While the attorneys at The Law Offices of Joseph J. Cariglia, P.C., see on almost a daily basis the injuries occurring on our nation's roadways, top officials sometimes seem to turn a blind eye on the devastation. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, released a report concluding that the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) failed to adequately take into account data demonstrating the impact of increased truck size and weight limits operating on our highways. According to the TRB, this resulted in a failure to estimate the frequency of truck accidents on our roads, and the infrastructure costs to particular roads and bridges resulting from increased truck sizes.
Congress required the DOT to study the effects of increased truck sizes on our infrastructure back in 2012 and to report back in three years. The DOT then directed the TRB to analyze the FHWA's findings pertaining to this study. In light of TRB's criticism of the FHAW, the FHWA has now denied that sufficient data was available to determine weights of vehicles during crashes. However, the FHWA officials now state they will incorporate information from the peer-review report of the TRB into a final report for submission to Congress.
Interestingly, six states which are primarily in the New England area allow trucks on the road with a gross vehicle weight of more than 80,000 pounds - with 80,000 pounds being the national limit - provided these trucks are equipped with a sixth axle. There are also currently 19 states allowing for twin-trailers in excess of 28 feet, with 28 feet being the current national limit. Provisions in the 2016 DOT appropriations bill would allow certain use for 33-foot twin-trailers.
Whether Congress will provide agencies additional resources allowing for better data and analysis is yet to be determined. However, there remains the question as to whether larger trucks on the road may lead to greater numbers of, and more severe, truck crashes. And of equal importance, will either federal or state legislatures take action preventing additional larger size trucks from operating on our roads.
Since legislatures seem reluctant to act, we will instead need to hold truckers and trucking companies accountable in court for the injuries caused due to truck accidents.
Source: DC Velocity, "TRB panel criticizes DOT, FHWA for punting on truck size, weight study," Mark B. Solomon, Oct. 8, 2015