Longer, heavier semitruck trailers proposed

Changes would affect Texas

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Semitrucks with dual trailers could get longer and heavier if two bills make their way through the federal government.

One bill would allow each dual trailer to be 5 feet longer, for a total of 10 additional feet. Current single-trailer trucks would still be required to keep trailers 53 feet or shorter.

Another bill would allow trucks to have a maximum weight of 91,000 pounds instead of the current limit of 80,000 pounds.

John Esparza, with the Texas Trucking Association, is in favor of allowing dual trucks to be longer.

"This is a good thing," he said.

His group is not in favor of allowing trucks to weigh more, however.

He said if trucks are longer, they will be able to carry more volume and that will reduce the overall number of trucks on the road.

"U.S. Department of Transportation data suggests the reduction of miles alone will equate to over 900 accidents averted," he said.

Channel 2 investigates reviewed two years' worth of data tracking semitruck crashes in Texas in which someone was injured or killed. Data showed 12,144 accidents between Sept. 1, 2013, and Sept. 1, 2015. In 738 accidents, someone died. The data analysis does not show who was at fault.

(BELOW: See how many accidents happen on highways near you or on highways you take to work.)

Not everyone agrees longer trucks mean fewer accidents.

Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe is heading to Washington D.C. with a lobby group to urge Congress not to allow longer trailers. Rockport is a city of about 10,000 people near Corpus Christi.

"I think longer vehicles are going to increase the danger for people driving on the highway," Jayroe said.

Jayroe is against increasing the weight limit for some trucks too.

He also is concerned that longer truck/trailer combinations will make it more difficult for drivers of semitrucks to make tight turns.

"A couple of the intersections require them to make awfully short turns and it interferes with traffic when they are having to take up some oncoming lanes to make a turn," Jayroe said.

The U.S. Transportation Department recently wrote a letter urging Congress not to allow longer trailers, saying there hasn't been enough safety testing.

Click here to read full USDOT letter

"At this time, the Department believes that the current data limitations are so profound that the results cannot accurately be extrapolated to predict national impacts. As such, the Department believes that no changes in the relevant truck size and weight laws and regulations should be considered until these data limitations are overcome," the letter written to Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) by the by U.S. Transportation Under Secretary Peter Rogoff said.

Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble has a new bill, the Safe, Flexible and Efficient Trucking Act of 2015, which would let trailers be heavier. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recently wrote a letter to Ribble, a Republican, endorsing his proposal.

Click here to read full WisDOT letter

"The Wisconsin Department of Transpiration supports the proposal in this legislation to allow six-axle trucks to carry a maximum gross weight of 91,000 pounds on Interstate System routes," Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said in a letter.

A final vote on the two bills won't likely happen for at least several weeks.

If you have a tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email him at jlarson@kprc.com or text him at 832-493-3951.

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