Longer Combination Trucks:

Potential Infrastructure Impacts, Productivity Benefits, and Safety Concerns

RCED-94-106: Published: Aug 9, 1994. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 1994.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the economic and safety impacts of expanding longer combination vehicles (LCV) operations, focusing on: (1) LCV effects on highway infrastructure; (2) the potential benefits from and industry's use of LCV; and (3) LCV safety concerns.

GAO found that: (1) expanding LCV use could increase highway maintenance and construction costs by up to $18 billion; (2) infrastructure changes needed due to expanded LCV use include bridge replacements, interchange improvements, and staging areas for LCV assembly; (3) infrastructure costs could be reduced by limiting LCV expansion to carefully selected routes away from major population areas; (4) expanding LCV use would not divert significant amounts of freight from the railroads; (5) nationwide use of LCV on interstate highways would reduce trucking costs by about 3 percent, which would most benefit large companies that combine small shipments; (6) the use of some types of LCV is not likely to increase because of logistics problems and customer demand; (7) LCV have increased stability problems, slower acceleration when merging into traffic, and lower speeds on grades; and (8) LCV have not been a safety problem in low traffic density areas, but expanding LCV use into more congested areas will require careful analysis, stricter driver qualifications, and better monitoring of LCV operations by state authorities.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Administration does not plan to address the issue of longer combination vehicles as part of the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Individual members of Congress may propose to amend the reauthorization bill in Committee or on the floor.

    Matter: If Congress wishes to allow expanded use of LCV, it should authorize the Secretary of Transportation to consider exceptions to the freeze on LCV expansion only if requested by states and accompanied by: (1) a state analysis of each proposed route to demonstrate its suitability in terms of the density of traffic, condition of bridges, and adequacy of interchanges--states should determine whether additional infrastructure costs would be generated and how these costs would be recovered; and (2) a certification that the state will enforce qualification standards for LCV drivers, ensure adequate inspection of LCV equipment, and monitor the experience of LCV to identify any emerging safety problems or negligent carriers.


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