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 A truck rides down Gratiot Avenue in Roseville May 23. The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks invited Roseville Police Chief James Berlin and law enforcement officials from 19 states to Capitol Hill May 16 to oppose legislation to allow longer and heavier trucks on roads.

A truck rides down Gratiot Avenue in Roseville May 23. The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks invited Roseville Police Chief James Berlin and law enforcement officials from 19 states to Capitol Hill May 16 to oppose legislation to allow longer and heavier trucks on roads.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Police chief goes to Washington to oppose bigger trucks

By: Bria Brown | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 30, 2018

ROSEVILLE — The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks invited Roseville Police Chief James Berlin and law enforcement officials from 19 states to Capitol Hill May 16 to oppose potential legislation to allow longer and heavier trucks on roads. 

“The bigger the trucks are, the more heavier the trucks are and the more dangerous they are. They take longer to brake, they need a bigger area to turn and are more prone to rollovers,” said Berlin, who sits on the board of directors for the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Berlin met with members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks covered the cost of the trip.  

“I believe we were well-received by our congressional delegation. They were all very open and listened, and time will tell to see how this goes, but this issue is not going away,” said Berlin. 

“A handful of the country’s largest trucking companies, including FedEx and UPS, are lobbying Congress to require every state to allow even longer double-trailer trucks, the so-called ‘Double 33s,’ which are 17 feet longer than today’s 53-foot single-trailer trucks. Another proposal being floated by large shippers in Washington, D.C., is to increase national truck weights from the standard 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds — an increase of 5.5 tons,” the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks stated in a press release.

Shane Reese, of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, stated in an email to the Eastsider May 24 that language to allow bigger trucks hasn’t been formed for the matter.

“There is no language at this time; however, an amendment is expected to be offered to the Senate (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) appropriations spending bill after Memorial Day weekend,” stated Reese. 

The Eastsider went to press before Memorial Day weekend. 

One issue with commercial trucks possibly becoming longer and heavier is consistent maintenance, Berlin said. 

“Not every company is as diligent as they should be with proactive maintenance, so when you’re trying to stop an extra 20,000 pounds, the brakes and everything have to be in good working order,” he said.

“Regarding the longer, double-trailer trucks, (the United States Department of Transportation) found that they needed 22 additional feet to stop compared to double-trailer trucks on the road today. The department also found that double-trailer trucks had 58 percent higher out-of-service violation rates compared to single-trailer trucks,” the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks stated. 

The secondary issue with longer and heavier trucks is the road conditions, Berlin said.

“If they are heavier, there’s much more wear and tear on the roads — our roads are already in terrible condition. In Roseville, we’re concerned with it because we have both Interstate 696 and Interstate 94, and Groesbeck (Highway) and Gratiot Avenue, where these big trucks travel every day,” said Berlin.  

“We want to keep the truck weight where it’s at,” he added. 

“Heavier trucks also had 18 percent higher brake violation rates. This is a critical finding because the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a large-truck study in December of 2016 that found a truck with any out-of-service violation was 362 percent more likely to be involved in a crash,” Coalition Against Bigger Trucks stated. 

During the April 24 Roseville City Council meeting, MDOT engineer Tony Kratofil assured Mayor Pro Tem Jan Haggerty, who had concerns about weigh stations, that there were weigh stations — managed by state police — open.

Berlin said weigh stations are open periodically.

“They open them periodically, because if the truckers know that they’re open, they’ll get off the freeway and take a different route,” said Berlin.

As for the future, Berlin said they wanted Congress to be aware of the concerns about the roads and public safety.

Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins said Roseville does not want to stand in the way of any commerce, trade and transport.

“If you extend the length and the weight of these commercial vehicles, our roads already can’t support what we have, and we have older infrastructure. This is only going to complicate and make that issue more complex,” he said.

The Michigan State Police has limited resources, and most counties have limited or no resources, and it trickles down to the local level that doesn’t have the resources for commercial enforcement, which is problematic, Adkins said.  

“We’re very concerned about unreasonable increases to the weight and size of these trucks,” said Adkins.

Dan Combs handles media relations for the Americans for Modern Transportation Coalition, of which FedEx and UPS are members. In an email to the Eastsider May 24, Combs said their coalition does not advocate for an “increase in the federal weight limit for trucks.”

“I would strongly disagree with the claims that a modest increase in the size of twin trailers would increase damage to roads or accidents. In fact, the policy change that we are advocating would bring our nation immediate and meaningful improvements:

“• Reduced Congestion — The efficiency gains from twin (33-foot) trailers would mean fewer trucks on the road and 53.2 million hours saved due to less congestion.

“• Improved Safety on Our Roads — The reduction in the number of trucks on our roads would have tangible safety benefits. Additionally, twin (33-foot) trailers perform better than many other truck configurations on four critical safety measures, including stability and roll over. Research shows that the adoption of twin (33-foot) trailers would result in 4,500 fewer truck accidents annually.

“• Economic Benefits — Twin (33-foot) trailers can move the same amount of freight with 18 (percent) fewer truck trips, allowing consumers and businesses to realize $2.6 billion annually in lower shipping costs and quicker delivery times. 

“• Longer Life Cycle for Our Roads and Bridges — The implementation of twin (33-foot) trailers will result in 3.1 billion fewer truck miles traveled each year, greatly reducing the impact on roads and bridges.

“• Environmental Gains — The efficiency gains from the adoption of twin (33-foot) trailers would equate to 255 million fewer gallons of fuel and 2.9 million fewer tons of (carbon dioxide) emissions,” stated Combs.