More South Florida trucking accidents likely to result from increased weight limits

Road Safe America, an organization dedicated to reducing the number of motorists involved in accidents with semis and large commercial trucks, is urging Gov. Charlie Crist to veto a measure that would allow heavier trucks on Florida roads.

Florida semi accidents continue to pose a serious threat to motorists. In Florida, 269 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2008. Only Texas (421) and California (304) had more deadly trucking accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationwide, 380,000 trucking accidents killed 4,229 people and injured more than 90,000.

Road Safe America rightly questions why, in the face of those sobering statistics, the state would have passed a measure permitting trucks to add 8,000 pounds of weight –equal to the weight of two passenger cars — to the 80,000 pounds already permitted by law. A semi can weight as much as 20 times more than a passenger car and motorists don’t stand a chance in the event of an accident.

“Floridians must ask themselves ‘Who benefits from Governor Crist’s raising the weight limit?’” Road Safe Executive Director Tom Hodgson said. The organization said trucks already take up to three-times longer to stop and increasing the weight, without requiring additional axles or braking capabilities, will only increase the risk of Florida trucking accidents.

The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways is also pushing the governor to veto the measure, as is the Florida Safety Council.

“The dangers of increasing tractor-trailer truck weights are well known – they are harder to stop, steer and more vulnerable to roll over during a crash,” said Tom Guilmet, the Executive Director of the Florida Safety Council. “But, by far, the most compelling objection to heavier trucks is the fact that they will cause more deaths and injuries on our highways.”

The Florida Sheriff’s Association is also against the measure.

“What it all boils down to is safety,” said Steve Casey, Executive Director at the Florida Sheriffs Association. “The well-being of the hundreds of thousands of motorists who travel on Florida’s roadways is being put at risk for the sake of special interests. The heavier the truck, the more difficult it is to control. There’s a danger factor that all Floridians should be aware of as far as this legislation is concerned – the fact that they are being ignored is beyond distressing.”

The Florida Department of Transportation has determined raising the weight limit will also cost millions of dollar in additional highway maintenance.

“Beyond the safety ramifications, Florida just doesn’t have the transportation maintenance funds to make this legislation work,” said Fraser Howe, chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “We’ve seen countless state and federal studies that show increased damage occurs to our roads and bridges as a result of higher volumes of heavy big rigs.”

The organizations also point out that Florida already permits semis and large commercial trucks to travel at the same speed as passenger cars. States with slower speed limits for large trucks have better safety records.