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Hit the brakes on bigger-truck legislation

Register • May 22, 2014 at 4:52 PM

On behalf of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, I am writing to express our opposition to bigger trucks, and we are strongly opposed to bigger-truck legislation right now under consideration in Congress.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee will vote this week on a funding bill that would allow heavier single-trailer trucks and, in one case, heavier double- and triple-trailer trucks, on highways in three states.

While the provisions will not directly affect Ohio interstates, we already have some of these trucks traveling on the Ohio Turnpike, and we absolutely do not want any more. Just as important, Ohio lawmakers will influence this debate because three members of the state’s federal delegation sit on the committee: Reps. David Joyce, Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan.

To proponents of bigger trucks, Ohio has always been a target for allowing heavier, longer trucks on the highway. If they successfully implement bigger-truck provisions in other states, especially with the backing of Ohio’s federal delegation, they will undoubtedly refocus their sights on us. Unleashing bigger trucks nationwide is their ultimate goal, and Ohio is a prime target.

There was a time I did not worry much about bigger trucks. That was 35 years ago, before I became a police officer and police chief — long before I saw firsthand the negative impact these trucks have on highway safety.

There were more than 5,100 large-truck collisions in Ohio in 2012, and 153 people lost their lives. Allowing heavier trucks will surely cause these statistics to rise, and it will be one of my colleagues arriving first to the scene.

While my home of Clyde is a small town of about 6,000 people, we have an industrial base, and we are home to the world’s largest washing-machine manufacturer.

More than 500 trucks hauling steel, hazardous materials and other cargo run through our town every day. We see more than our share of truck crashes and many of them have been horrific, heartbreaking scenes. Because the big rigs are so massive, when trucks and cars collide the consequences are very serious.

We should not do anything to add to those dangers. Adding extra weight to big rigs will definitely make them more dangerous. It is a matter of simple physics.

Heavier weights traveling at high speeds mean an increase in crash severity. This fact was confirmed by a U.S. Department of Transportation report released last year that found gross vehicle weight appears to be tied to higher crash rates, putting motorists in Ohio and across the country in even more danger.

Let me be clear: We are not here to blame truck drivers. In fact, it is been my experience that the vast majority of drivers are skilled, careful and deliberate—and they take their jobs seriously.

This is an issue of vehicles that are inherently dangerous, and we do not want to make them any more dangerous by adding to their size or weight.

I was traveling north on the Ohio Turnpike not long ago, and I got behind one of these triple-trailer trucks. I can tell you as an eyewitness that the “crack-the- whip” effect is real.

As the wind picked up, the two rear-most trailers were snaking in its traffic lane and the rear-most trailer swept into my lane by at least two feet. I do not want triple-trailer trucks coming anywhere near my town.

Here is the bottom line: Those companies that want the heavier and longer rigs talk about “modernizing” our transportation policy, but there is nothing “modern” about compromising the safety of the American public. It is time we put the safety of motorists ahead of large trucking companies making a few extra bucks.

We oppose bigger trucks because we patrol the roads, and we want to keep our communities safe. We know from real-world, day-to-day experience that bigger trucks are bad news for Ohio motorists.

Bruce Gower is police chief of the Clyde Police Department.

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