Florida permits faster heavier trucks – more semi accidents a certainty

Lawmakers ignored the wishes of motorists and safety advocates this summer in passing a law that permits some of the heaviest semis in the nation to roll down Florida highways.

Only Idaho, Maine, Washington and North Dakota permit heavier trucks. Nationwide, nearly every state limits the weight of a semi to 80,000 pounds. When Gov. Charlie Crist signed House Bill 1271 into law, he permitted Florida semis to add an additional 8,000 pounds to the maximum load.
Beginning July 1 semis are permitted to add the weight of two additional passenger cars to the average load, which already weighs as much as 20 passenger cars. And Florida’s 70 mph speed limit for semis is already one of the highest in the nation. Is it any wonder that Florida is among the deadliest states in the nation for trucking accidents? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 269 semis were involved in fatal Florida trucking accidents in 2008. Only California and Texas recorded a worse safety record.

Our Fort Myers accident attorneys are frequently called to represent motorists who have been injured or killed in accidents with semis or other large commercial vehicles. These trucks must obey specific safety regulations precisely because of the dangers they pose to the motoring public. Relaxing these standards is never a good idea, particularly in a state that already has one of the worst safety records in the nation.

Supporters of the change (trucking companies, naturally), claim it will make the system more efficient by reducing the number of trips required to deliver maximum roads. Reduced congestion, fuel consumption and emissions are also benefits.

Safety advocates argue more innocent motorists will be killed. Every year. Without a doubt.

Road Safe America, an organization that was founded by the parents of a child killed in a semi accident, reports that more wrecks are a certainty when 10 percent more weight is added without requiring additional axles, brakes or other controls.

“Floridians must ask themselves ‘Who benefits from Governor Crist’s raising the weight limit?'” declared Tom Hodgson, Executive Director of Road Safe America.

Semis already require about three-times more room to stop than a typical passenger car.

“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.”

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