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Area police chief speaks out against bigger trucks, travels to Capitol Hill to voice public safety concern

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Apr 8, 2014 at 4:07 PM

As Congress considers increased size and weight limits for semi-trailer trucks — including triple-trailer trucks and long double-trailer trucks — leading safety advocates are headed to Capitol Hill to voice their concerns that bigger trucks would endanger motorists.One of the leaders traveling to Washington is Bruce Gower, Clyde police chief, who strongly opposes any increases to truck sizes or weights. While in Washington, Gower will also represent the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Triple-trailer trucks are a triple threat: They’re more dangerous, more damaging and more expensive,” Gower said.

“Bigger trucks would endanger Ohioans, no matter what way you look at it,” he said. “Just two years ago, I traveled to D.C. to speak about this very issue. It was defeated then. It’s unfortunate some in Congress did not hear our message, but I will continue to meet with members of our state’s federal delegation until we stop bigger trucks once and for all.”

Congress is considering whether to allow bigger trucks as it works on reauthorizing the surface transportation bill, otherwise known as MAP-21. With pressure from some of the country’s largest trucking companies and businesses pushing for increased size and weight limits, a vote could come as soon as April.

“There were more than 5,100 large-truck collisions in 2012 in Ohio, and 153 people lost their lives, so allowing bigger trucks on our roads would most likely cause those statistics to rise,” Gower said. “It’s time we put the safety of motorists ahead of large trucking companies making a few extra bucks.”

Congress is specifically considering several types of truck-size and weight limits, including allowing triple-trailer trucks, long double-trailer trucks, and increased weight limits for single-trailer trucks to 97,000 pounds—an increase of 8.5 tons.

None of the potential increases sits well with Gower.

“We have all the crash data we need to make a clear decision against bigger trucks,” said Gower. “A U.S. Department of Transportation study found that multi-trailer trucks have an 11-percent higher fatal crash rate than single-trailer trucks,” he said. “That data is bolstered by a study published by university researchers last year, which found a 15.5-percent higher fatal crash rate.”

The research published last year was conducted at Marshall University by the Multimodal Transportation and Infrastructure Consortium (MTIC), a University Transportation Center recognized by the USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). That same study found that 95 percent of law enforcement officers believe heavier and longer trucks would be more dangerous. The research also found that 88 percent of truck drivers believe greater use of longer-combination vehicles would negatively impact highway safety.

“I’ve talked with my fellow law enforcement officers, and the vast majority of them tell me that bigger trucks would only cause problems,” Gower said.

Gower joins like-minded law enforcement officials from 16 states in making the trip to Washington at the invitation of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), a nonprofit grassroots organization opposed to legislation that would make trucks longer or heavier.

Gower also notes that heavier trucks accelerate the damage done to bridges and roads. “Some people refer to them as ‘bridge-wreckers,’ and roads take a beating from them as well,” he said.

There were 6,773 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in Ohio as of 2012, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

In Washington, Gower plans to meet on Wednesday, April 9, with members of Ohio’s federal delegation, including House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Jim Jordan, who represents Clyde, and Rep. Bob Gibbs, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century highway funding act, otherwise known as MAP-21, was approved by Congress in 2012 and is now up for reauthorization before it expires on September 30. As it considers reauthorizing the surface transportation bill, Congress is still waiting on a two-year study from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on truck-size and weight limits.

CABT is a national, nonprofit grassroots organization with coalitions of nearly 5,000 local supporters in over 30 states. CABT local supporters include law enforcement officers, local elected officials, truck drivers, motorists, safety and consumer groups, railroads, and citizens groups. To learn more about the fight against bigger trucks, visit www.cabt.org.

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