Congress could make big trucks even bigger, but opponents say it’s not safe

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A Congressional proposal to make big trucks even bigger is getting a lot of talk in Indiana, a major state for commercial freight.
Supporters said it makes financial sense, while opponents said bigger trucks just aren’t safe.

Trucks that pull two trailers could get ten feet longer if the proposal gets the green light from national lawmakers. One central Indiana police chief went to Washington, DC to weigh in on the debate.

“Typically this isn’t the type of discussion that I would get involved in,” said Patrick Flannelly, Lafayette Police Chief.

Flannelly knows all too well the truck traffic on Indiana interstates. But he wants the brakes on Congressional proposals that would make big trucks longer, adding ten feet to allowed length of trucks that pull two trailers.  Flannelly said Lafayette and the recent emergency closure of I-65 is an example that sometimes trucks end up on rural highways, and bigger trucks may be a danger.

“Whenever you get some of the big trucks in the small areas where they’re not necessarily, the roads aren’t designed for them, it creates some concerns,” he said.

The issue is the focus of intense national lobbying.

Indiana is called the “crossroads of America,” because the state is the fifth busiest for commercial truck traffic and within a one-day drive of 80% of the U.S. population.

“More efficiency means cheaper rates in many cases,” said Gary Langston, President, of the Indiana Motor Truck Association.

Langston’s group represents roughly 14,000 trucking companies in Indiana. He said not all truckers are on board, though.

“There is another side to it, and that’s competition,” he said.

Some believe the new rules could create an unfair advantage for larger companies. Langston said from his perspective longer trailers would be a benefit in reducing congestion.

“They use up all the space before they use up all the weight that's allowed, so allowing them a bit of additional length to carry additional cargo will keep another truck off the road,” he said.

This proposal sits in spending bills lawmakers have not yet approved for the new fiscal year which starts in October. Our partners at the IndyStar have more in-depth reporting on the issue here.