Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Trailers: A Fatal Pairing? Accidents Lead to Second Look

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Trailers: A Fatal Pairing? Accidents Lead to Second Look

Article excerpt

Four people were killed in Jacksonville, seven in Wisconsin --

all in traffic accidents where a semi with two trailers crossed

a highway median and smashed into oncoming traffic.

Federal officials are investigating both crashes to look for

similarities and determine if the double trailers, called

tandems, were the reason.

The Jacksonville accident occurred last month on Interstate 95

about 3 miles north of the Florida 210 exit. A United Parcel

System truck with two trailers crossed the 40-foot median and

hit a car and another semi, killing two people in the car and

both truckers.

In Wisconsin, seven men were killed on U.S. 41 in February when

their van was crushed by a tandem truck that crossed the median.

The accidents and recent political maneuvering in Washington

have intensified the debate over the safety of the tandem

trucks, legal in Florida since the early 1990s. The issue is

receiving attention from lobby groups and trade organizations as

Congress prepares to decide this fall on new comprehensive

commercial motor carrier laws.

Four investigators from the National Transportation Safety

Board were sent to Jacksonville to look into the April 25 crash

to see if a pattern of fatal accidents involving tandems is

developing, said Joe Osterman, chief of the NTSB highway

division.

"We've always had an interest in longer combination vehicles,"

Osterman said. "We're looking at them at the request of Congress

and partly in our own interest."

National statistics compiled by the Insurance Institute for

Highway Safety show that tandem trucks are three times more

likely to be involved in accidents than other trucks. In

Florida, the institute said semis in general have a 34 percent

higher per-mile accident rate than cars.

Tandems are more difficult to control because they are longer

than semis with single trailers (up to 90 feet long, compared to

53 feet), can carry more weight (95,000 pounds compared to

88,000) and take longer to stop. …

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