Fed-Ex is certainly not the only major corporate oligarch calling the shots in Congress, pushing legislation that increases potential profit at the expense of human lives and safety. In this case, it’s being joined by Old Dominion Freight Line and a number of other large trucking firms, which are all calling for greater productivity at lower costs. (If history is any indication, don’t expect these firms to share their increased prosperity with the employees that actually make it possible.)
Fed-Ex, Old Dominon and their cohorts are paying their lobbyists millions of dollars in order to get Congress to eliminate regulations that currently limit the size of trucks. Under the law as it now stands, tractor-trailer combinations are limited to 56 feet. If the corporate trucking coalition is successful at eliminating these regulations, the size of individual trailers could increase from 28 feet to 33 feet – creating rigs that in some states, could be well over 90 feet in length. This would enable truckers to carry nearly 20% more cargo (but only by volume; federal weight limits would still apply).
Adding insult to injury, the latest transportation bill would also end any possibility of raising insurance requirements while at the same time, allowing drivers to work longer hours.
Aside from the fact that driver fatigue is a leading cause of accidents, the physics of larger rigs on deteriorating U.S. highways and bridges portend disaster all around – while decreased insurance requirements will make it more difficult for injury victims to get fair compensation. Jennifer Tierney, who works with a North Carolina tracking safety advocacy organization, pointed out that even at current sizes, double-trailer rigs are already responsible for significantly more accidents than smaller ones. She accuses FedEx and others of playing “Russian roulette” with people’s lives. Tierney lost her father in a trucking accident.
At least one member of Congress, Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, stood up to the trucking industry before when they were willing to put lives at risk in order to increase profits. His constituents are urging him to do it once again. Another Congressman, David Price of North Carolina, is actively opposing the new legislation. Price is a member of a House Transportation Subcommittee.
On their side, the industry is claiming it does not want to “compromise safety,” describing the current proposal allowing even greater lengths for tractor-trailer combinations “modest.”
This debate comes only weeks after a fatal crash in Georgia in which the driver of a rig, traveling at 70 miles per hour, crashed into stopped vehicles on Interstate 16, taking the lives of three young women and injuring a fourth. Families of the victims in that case have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, with the trial tentatively scheduled for this fall.
For more information regarding Transportation Safety, visit Levin Papantonio Trucking Lawsuit web site.