ping 225.3 percent
With an increasing number of older Americans living in the suburbs, fewer will
be able to give up access to their automobiles. As it is, more than 80 percent of trips
made by those 65 and over are in an automobile, and that reliance is growing.
Trucks are over-represented in fatal collisions. Over the past several years, com-
bination trucks have experienced fatal crash involvement rates nearly twice those
of passenger cars. In 1992, according to National Safety Council (NSC) data, pas-
senger cars constituted 74.2 percent of the registered vehicles yet were involved in
a much smaller percentage of the fatal collisions, (57.9 percent).
Medium/heavy trucks had the opposite experience. They constituted 3.9 percent
of the vehicles registered and were involved in 7.9 percent of the fatal collisions. Of
the total deaths due to crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle in
1992, 98 percent were occupants of the passenger vehicle. The laws of physics are
irrevocable. The severity of motor vehicle collisions is a direct result of the energy
that is dissipated by the crash. When an 80,000 pound truck crashes with a 2,700
pound automobile, the truck has 30 times more energy and the truck simply over-
powers the automobile. It's like hitting an ant with a sledge hammer!
Both AAA and the trucking industry are trying to lessen the safety threat posed
by the disparity in vehicle sizes on today's highways. AAA, the American Trucking
Associations, and the National Private Truck Council in partnership with FHWA
are producing and distributing educational material on how to safely share the
roads. We see this campaign as the beginning of a partnership among automobile
drivers and commercial vehicle drivers, helping each to understand the needs and
limitations of the other. We have also worked with the industry on incident manage-
ment programs and joined with them this past year to work on the Washington
Beltway Area Highway Safety Initiative.
But this does not mean we won't raise our voices to object when the trucking in-
dustry attempts to obtain even bigger and heavier trucks.
Over the years the trucking industry has repeatedly contended that the use of
longer trucks would reduce the number of trucks on the roads, thereby reducing en-
ergy use, air pollution and highway congestion. This argument was used by the in-
dustry back in the 1970's during the energy crisis when trucks were allowed to
carry cai-go in excess of existing weight limits. The same argument was used during
the debate on the 1982 Highway Act, which mandated the 80,000 pound weight
limit; the use of twin trailers; and the use of 484oot semi -trailers; and, was used
most recently in the industry's push for expanded use of LCVs.
But registration figures for combination trucks (as noted in FHWA's Highway Sta-
tistics), demonstrate that larger trucks did not lead to reduced combination truck
registrations. Since 1981, truck registrations have increased 31.2 percent. More im-
portantly, the growth in highway freight movement since 1981 has been paralleled
by increased truck travel, not increased tonnage per vehicle. Between 1981 and
1992, the VMT has increased 43.2 percent.
Allowing bigger trucks on our highways would provide economic benefits to both
shippers and truckers, but only at high costs to motorists. Motorists and other high-
way users would bear increased costs of infrastructure repair and maintenance, and
experience additional collisions resulting from reduced safety margins.
Is this fair? AAA does not believe it is. Limits on truck sizes and weights are
needed and they are needed now.
Our investment in the NHS represents a strategic investment in America's future.
To protect that investment we must allow for the planning, implementation, and op-
eration of an adequate infrastructure to guarantee the safe movement of people and
goods rather than permitting the continual ratchetting upward of truck size and
weight limits as we nave seen over the years.
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