Effort to allow 33-foot tandem trailers defeated in Senate
Longer twin trailers are seen by many in freight transportation industry as productivity issue, but opponents claim they are unsafe.
The Senate moved Wednesday to consider the fiscal year 2016 transportation appropriations bill and in the process defeated an industry effort to increase the size of tandem trailers allowed on the nation’s highways.
An amendment by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., removing a federal mandate from the appropriations bill that would force states to allow large trucks to pull double 33-foot trailers, was adopted by voice vote. Instead, the bill now instructs the Department of Transportation to complete a safety study of longer tandem vehicles, which are not allowed by 38 states.
Trucking companies such as FedEx, and shippers that would benefit from lower hauling costs, say that increasing the national standard from 28-feet to 33-feet would allow trucks to carry 18 percent more freight and help reduce congestion and potential accidents by requiring fewer trucks on the road to move goods. Safety advocates, the Teamsters Union, the American Automobile Association and others claim the longer rigs are unsafe and would put more wear and tear on the nation’s roads.
“Allowing the monstrous twin-33 trucks on our highways without a full understanding of the safety implications would be irresponsible and dangerous,” Feinstein said in a statement. “In my view, such a sweeping change runs counter to all notions of public safety and has no place in an appropriations bill.”
Last week, the Senate passed a motion instructing conferees negotiating a unified highway reauthorization bill to remove the mandate for 33-foot trailers.
Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the transportation funding bill requiring states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers on their highways. Currently, 38 states do not allow these longer trucks to operate within their jurisdictions. One study estimates that twin 33-footers would put more wear and tear on our nation’s roads, adding $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion in maintenance costs per year.
The American Trucking Associations expressed disappointment in the vote.
“This modest increase in tandem trailer length would reduce the number of truck trips needed to move an increasing amount of freight while making better use of a dwindling pool of drivers,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a statement. “There are so many upsides to the use of twin 33s that it is inevitable this change will come to pass. Decision makers cannot continue to embrace unsafe and unproductive strategies, and expect to have this nation’s freight continue to get delivered. Ultimately the economy will win this debate.”
The House appropriations bill includes the mandate to go to 33-foot pup trailers.
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