Major changes to federal truck safety regulations could be on the way, if a federal highway funding bill is passed by the U.S. Congress. According to The Hill, the safety changes, which include increasing the maximum length of tractor trailers and lowering the age of truck drivers, have been added to a major bill that is otherwise primarily designed to ensure continued funding for the nation's infrastructure. Critics, including safety experts and some lawmakers, are vehemently opposed to the changes, saying they will lead to more truck accidents and increase damage to roadways.
The bill would force states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers to operate on highways. Currently, federal law only requires states to permit trucks towing two 28-foot trailers, although 11 states (New York is not one of them) already permit the so-called "double-33s." In addition to the longer trailers, the funding bill would, if passed, also lower the minimum age for tractor trailer drivers from 21 to 18.
The changes have plenty of support from the trucking industry, which claims that longer trucks will actually make roads safer because they will reduce the overall number of trips that will have to be made by trucks. Additionally, they claim lowering the minimum age for drivers is necessary due to a current shortage of truck operators.
Safety experts, however, have panned the notion that bigger trucks will somehow make America's roads and highways safer. As Fox 61 reports, the longer trucks require an additional 22 feet of space to come to a stop. A number of lawmakers have also come out against the proposals, calling double-33s a "dire threat to public safety" and pointing out that the bigger trucks are harder to maneuver and more likely to cause a serious accident.
Critics also point out that the larger trucks tend to cause more road damage. That extra damage means taxpayers would not only be saddled with even greater infrastructure maintenance costs, but they could be put at increased risk by damaged roadways. Finally, lowering the minimum age for truck drivers to 18 has likewise been decried as dangerous. Young adults are already at a greater risk of being involved in a car accident and allowing those same drivers behind the wheel of a tractor trailer seems like an especially risky proposal.
The damage and injuries caused by truck accidents tend to be much more severe than other types of accidents. Any smaller vehicles caught in a truck's path are likely to suffer massive damage and truck accident victims are at a much higher risk of serious and sometimes fatal injuries.
Sadly, the ordeal for accident victims doesn't always end with the accident itself. Years of therapy and recovery may lie ahead, for example, along with steep medical bills and lost income. Such an ordeal should not have to be faced alone. A personal injury attorney can help anyone who has been hurt in a truck accident understand what can be done to ease some of the burden. In some cases, an experienced attorney may be able to help victims pursue financial compensation that can provide some peace of mind during their physical recovery.