We have all been there. When you begin to pass a tractor trailer on the highway, you speed up just a little bit in an effort to get quickly clear or you slow down and simply refuse to take the chance. If passing, you are all the while holding your breath and engaging in an internal monologue that involves begging the particular truck not to drift into your lane. Or that when seeing such a truck up ahead, I have unsettling visions similar to that portrayed in this video:
If I am alone in this regard, then I have just outed myself as an anxious, neurotic, pessimist. However, when I see a story like this one reported on WLTX in Columbia, SC, I am reminded that accidents like these do not always happen to the “other guy” because one of us is always going to be that “other guy”. They are a tragic reality on the asphalt arteries dominated by tractor trailers whose bodies are unwieldy, loads can be dangerous and drivers are sometimes fatigued. Such a combination poses a constant threat to other vehicles and often yields devastating consequences.
On October 5, 2005, a University of Washington professor was killed when an overloaded logging truck lost its load. This preventable death was one of over 5,000 attributable to tractor trailers in that year alone, not to mention over 100,000 injuries attributable to same.
Federal laws regulating commercial vehicles exist. For example, there are length and width limitations, all commercial vehicles are required to pass annual safety inspections, and all owners and operators are subject to fitness tests, to name a few.
Compartmental regulations are all well and good, but the one thing that is beyond regulation is the final product. For example, one knows the makeup and ingredients of a single shot of Patron gold tequila, and likewise any other individual liquors; such can be measured, quantified, inspected. But when that tequila is mixed with other known quantities of vodka, gin, rum and triple sec, the result is a drastically different mixture whose effect on the imbiber is far more potent and dangerous than that of a single shot of any of the above-named. The combination and the effect cannot be measured, anticipated, quantified, regulated. And like the morning-after effects of Long Island Iced Tea, the loaded to maximum capacity, maximum length, maximum width commercial vehicle, that sets out on the road in the early pre-dawn hours, with an operator who has not slept in 48 hours is a potentially lethal, unable to be regulated until it is to late menace to our highways with every RPM.
As it currently stands, the maximum weight of a commercial vehicle is 80,000 pounds. At an average highway speed of 60 mph (I am, at 70 plus mph on the interstate, routinely passed), it neither takes an expert in physics to understand the damage this could, and does, cause, nor to envision how difficult it would be for an operator (even a well-rested, fresh operator) to stay in control of such a beast. However, knowing this is the case, there are efforts underway to convince federal lawmakers to increase the maximum weight to 97,000 pounds. Can you imagine any scenario in which a nearly 50 ton vehicle going 70 plus mph would not be a juggernaut of destruction?
When will senseless and preventable deaths at the hands of overloaded tractor trailers dwindle … when companies put public safety before private gain.
This is a problem, but there are solutions! Visit such websites as www.roadsafeamerica.org or stopbigtrucks.org to learn more.