The head of S.C. Trooper Association plans to travel Wednesday to Washington to put the brakes on a move to allow larger, heavier trucks on the nation's highways.
David Latimer, executive director of the Troopers Association, said he strongly opposes any increases to truck sizes or weights because of the safety threat.
South Carolina had more than 2,300 collisions involving large trucks in 2012, and 82 people were killed.
Congress is debating whether to allow bigger trucks as it works on a new highway funding bill, known as MAP-21. Some large trucking companies and businesses have been pushing for increased size and weight limits, and a vote on that could come as early as this month.
"We absolutely cannot roll the dice with public safety," Latimer said in a statement. "South Carolinians trust us to ensure their safety on the highway, and bigger trucks would rescind that promise."
Latimer said allowing larger trucks on the roads "would undoubtedly cause those numbers to spike, and that's unacceptable. The only people who want bigger trucks are the companies that own them - everyone else would suffer the consequences."
One change would allow triple-trailer trucks, long double-trailer trucks, and increased weight limits for single-trailer trucks to 97,000 pounds - an increase of 8.5 tons, he said.
Heavier trucks also could pose a threat to their drivers. Latimer noted South Carolina had 1,981 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges, according to recent numbers from the Federal Highway Administration. He noted that some call heavy trucks "bridge-wreckers."
Latimer will join law enforcement officials from at least 16 other states as part of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, a nonprofit group. He plans to meet with three S.C. Republicans: Sen. Tim Scott, who serves on the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rick Todd, president of the S.C. Truckers Association, said the coalition is a front group for the railroad industry. "They pull these groups together every time there is a productivity battle with truck fleet operators and our customers," he said. "We are not pressing our delegation on this, but they are certainly working the propaganda machine."
It's unclear whether the changes have much chance passing Congress, though Shane Reese, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, said, "That it is being considered is worrisome enough."
Latimer noted that research released last year found that 95 percent of law enforcement officers believe heavier and longer trucks would be more dangerous - and 88 percent of truck drivers believe more long-combination trucks would hurt highway safety.
"Bigger trucks mean more dangers, and the statistics confirm that time and time again," Latimer said. "A federal study from (the U.S. Department of Transportation) found that multi-trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single-trailer trucks. ... Just last year, a team of university researchers came to a similar conclusion, only this time they found that multi-trailer trucks have a 15.5 percent higher fatal crash rate."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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