JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks
Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge, President of the Mississippi Sheriffs' Association, has a simple message for Congress: Mississippi motorists should not be forced to share the road with bigger, more dangerous trucks.
As millions of Americans prepare to take to the roads for the Labor Day weekend, Hodge is joining other law enforcement officials from throughout the country in speaking out against proposals in Congress that would increase maximum truck weights and mandate longer trucks on our roads.
"The Mississippi Sheriffs' Association stands in opposition to longer and heavier trucks," said Hodge. "And within the past few months, we have seen our two U.S. Senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, oppose such provisions. On behalf of the Association, I would like to thank them for their support in keeping our roads safe."
Certain large trucking companies and shippers are lobbying Congress for both longer and heavier trucks. They want to see truck weight increase to 91,000 pounds, five and one-half tons above the current truck weight limits. At the same time, trucking companies want to force states to allow double 33-foot trailer trucks. These trucks are as long as 91 feet and are 17 feet longer than the standard 53-foot single-trailer truck most motorists are used to seeing.
In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) publicly released a series of Technical Reports on heavier and longer trucks following more than two years of study. Based on its findings, USDOT called on Congress to make no changes to truck size and weight limits. While USDOT cites "profound data limitations" that led to its recommendation, it found evidence of higher crash rates for heavier trucks and longer stopping distances for the longer trucks.
Congress is set to reconvene on September 8. At that time, it is expected that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will begin the process of passing a long-term transportation reauthorization bill.
"As Congress looks to pass a transportation bill, I can only hope the rest of the members of Congress take the lead of our two Mississippi Senators," Hodge said. "They understand what law enforcement has known for a long time: bigger trucks mean more danger for motorists and law enforcement."
In Mississippi in 2014, there were 1,691 large-truck collisions, which is more than 14-percent higher than in 2013. In 2013, Mississippi had 63 fatalities involving large trucks.
A nationwide survey conducted earlier this year found that 76 percent of respondents oppose heavier and longer trucks on the highway, while 15 percent support them and 9 percent are unsure. The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks commissioned the live-operator poll of 1,000 nationwide respondents, and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Hodge also noted that heavier and longer trucks accelerate the damage done to bridges and pavement. In 2014, 3,565 of the state's highway bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, meaning they require substantial upgrades, repairs or replacement.