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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trucking with 97,000 Pounds – Sit Down, Shut Up and Hold On!

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Having hauled household goods for most of my life, the maximum weight I averaged carrying was around 28,000 pounds, giving me a total gross weight of about 55,000 pounds.  When my body could no longer handle the physical aspects of household moving, I transitioned over to the dry freight industry.  I learned very quickly that there was a big difference between 55,000 and 80,000 pounds.

On my very first run in the freight hauling business, I found myself coming down the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, fully loaded with 80,000 and tires and brakes filling the air with white smoke.  It was my first and only time to experience the “thrill” of utilizing a runaway truck ramp.  That 25,000 pound difference led me into another world of OTR trucking.

As the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), Bill  S. 747 gains momentum, many wonder how an increase of 17,000 pounds will effect the push for many safety issues within the industry.  During a time when the U. S. trucking industry is seeing an increase in the hiring of new, inexperienced drivers, many are showing concern for their safety, as well as the safety of the general motoring public.

At the time I had my thrill ride in Virginia, I had already been driving for 16 years.  Veteran truck drivers with years of experience have also had their share of problems with heavy loads during increment weather and mountain driving.  Sometimes, things out of the driver’s control can just happen.  Be it a mechanical failure or unfamiliar terrain, even the most experienced driver can find him or herself in a dangerous situation.

With the market somewhat being flooded by new drivers right out of CDL training schools, the safety factor will have to be risen a notch or two.  This is not to discredit the recent CDL graduate, but to place a stronger focus on the safety of drivers.   Newcomers to the industry, if this new proposal takes place, should be allowed to operate the CMV for a lengthy period of time, building experience and the skills needed to operate a commercial motor vehicle, before being handed a 97,000 pound load, not to mention adjusting to a sixth axle which will have to be added to the rear of the 53 foot trailer.  I would certainly estimate that only veteran, skilled drivers would be allowed to haul such loads if this bill passes.

On the other side of the story, many believe that raising the allowed truck weight to 97,000 pounds will actually increase safety for the industry.

As noted in SC Digest :

“A 2009 study by the Wisconsin DOT study looked at truck-related accident data in the state during 2006.   From that data, a reasonable estimate is that if a law like SETA had been in place in 2006, it would have prevented 90 truck-related accidents in the state that year.  That follows actual data from the United Kingdom, which raised its gross vehicle weight limit to 97,000 pounds for six-axle vehicles in 2001.   Since then, fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35%, as actual truck vehicle miles traveled declined substantially.”

So as the U. S. trucking industry takes its lead from the United Kingdom, perhaps American drivers can look forward to running less miles.  This is a good thing for drivers?

If the GVW is raised to 97,000 pounds and inexperienced drivers are thrown behind the wheel of such loads, we may be hearing more of the phrase :  “Sit down, shut up and hold on!

© 2011, AskTheTrucker. All rights reserved.

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