Greater rigs imply larger threat on congested Texas freeways

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Dallas area drivers are familiar with the heavy truck traffic on Highways 20, 30, and 35 and have experienced significant delays due to accidents and construction. It comes as no surprise to any of us that vehicle journeys on the Texas freeway increased 23 percent from 2000 to 2016, an increase of 7 percentage points from the national average.

We expect certain streets to be congested at certain times of the day and try to plan accordingly. What we can’t foresee other than trying to be the safest drivers we can be are road accidents.

The large commercial vehicles on our highways and on many local roads provide a necessary economic service. Mixing these large commercial vehicles with our much smaller and lighter private vehicles, however, can create real safety concerns.

There were 16,124 large truck accidents in Texas in 2017, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That crash rate is 7 percent higher than last year, a worrying trend.

As the Duncanville Police Chief, it is my job to ensure that our residents and our officers are safe on our streets. To that end, I oppose any legislation that would add heavier or longer trucks to our transport mix. The Texas Police Chiefs Association and the North Texas Police Chiefs Association, both of which are members, participate in this opposition.

Traffic was routed off Interstate 35E as officials at the Texas Department of Transportation worked to clean up after a truck carrying stones was involved in a crash on Sept. 7.(Shaban Athuman / employee photographer)

At the simplest level, heavier and longer trucks tend to make accidents more severe. Longer double trucks are more difficult to pass in many situations, e.g. B. when merging into moving traffic or during a rain storm when they splash water on the windshields of cars, and they have a longer braking distance than the double trailers they would replace. Heavier trucks tend to wear out their safety equipment earlier – important safety equipment like brakes and tires.

In recent years, lobbyists from some of the largest shipping companies have spent considerable time and money convincing members of Congress to allow or hire heavier or longer trucks. I have written letters to our federal delegation in the past speaking out against such laws, and I still firmly believe that this is a bad idea for security reasons – and bad public order.

As a law enforcement professional, I know from experience that heavier trucks at 91,000 pounds (an increase of 11,000 pounds) or longer double trailers (10 feet longer) put more motorists at increased risk. The cost savings for some large shipping companies are just not worth the cost those larger trucks would charge for our driving safety.

Robert Brown is the Duncanville Police Chief. He wrote this column for the Dallas Morning News.

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