Truck stop?

If US Transportation Department officials are surprised at the stir over the fact that tandem trucks will now be allowed on all the nation's interstate highways and many primary roadways under terms of the federal 5-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, they shouldn't be. The truck issue was a contentious one from the outset. But now that the law has taken effect the vital consideration would seem to be that the trucking industry exercise the utmost responsibility to ensure that the big rigs are operated safely.

Trucks as wide as 102 inches and double trailers of 28 feet each will now be allowed on the 42,268 miles of interstate highways and 139,000 miles of primary roads that receive federal aid. Until April 1 tandem rigs were prohibited in 13 states, mainly because of concerns about safety. Congress approved the change as a gesture to truckers resisting the higher gasoline tax.

Some states and communities are refusing to allow the new law to take effect, or are seeking limitations or mounting court challenges. But not all that many additional big rigs will be using roadways for some time anyway. Many firms do not yet have the converter equipment necessary for tandems.

Trucking firms should use this period when Congress and the courts will be reviewing the law to reexamine their operating policies. That means selecting only the most experienced drivers to man the big rigs. Ensuring that posted speed limits are strictly obeyed. Carefully inspecting equipment.

Such caution could go far in allaying concern.

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