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Will bigger rigs roll over Pennsylvania and Ohio?

The biggest vehicles rolling on Pennsylvania and Ohio highways are tractor-trailers. The behemoths could get significantly bigger if Congress has its way. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a measure and sent it on to the Senate that would enable trucking companies to roll 85-foot double tractor-trailers across America.

The giant new trucks would be 17 feet longer than those currently allowed on Pennsylvania roads. Naturally, shipping companies are excited about the prospect, saying that the new big rigs would increase hauling capacity by 18 percent without increasing the number of trucks. FedEx claims that the gargantuan rigs would reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions — and would be safer than the 18-wheelers now on our highways.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey isn't convinced. “I have trouble understanding how it’s going to make things safer," he said.

The larger trucks would take an extra 22 feet to come to a stop than the current big rigs, he said. Truck accidents already plague Pennsylvania, with 6,683 large-truck accidents last year; an increase of nearly 70 percent over 2013.

Casey said Beaver County accidents rose from 43 to 51 in that year; Allegheny County shot up from 299 to 446; and Lawrence County saw a jump from 18 to 29.

Plus, the senator noted in a newspaper interview, the U.S. Department of Transportation says the bigger, longer, heavier trucks would wreak havoc on infrastructure, causing more than $2.1 billion in damages to roads and bridges.

The laws of physics dictate that when the larger trucks are in collisions with small vehicles such as passenger cars, the damage they cause will be even more extensive. Injuries will be more severe and deaths more common. More Pennsylvania families will be forced to fight trucking companies and insurers for compensation for heartbreaking losses of health and life.

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