Nov 19, 2015 at 12:54 PM CST
By Keith Laing
The Senate voted on Wednesday to drop a proposal to increase the length of twin-trailer trucks that are allowed on U.S. roads from an appropriations bill.
Trucking groups were pushing Congress to increase a current limit on the length of double-trailer rigs, from 28 feet to 33 feet.
The Senate voted Wednesday to remove the proposal to increase the length of trucks to what are known as "twin 33s" from a funding bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that is known as THUD, however.
"A recent independent poll revealed that 77 percent of Americans oppose twin 33-foot trailer trucks on the nation’s highways and byways,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said in a statement after the amendment to eliminate the longer truck provision from the THUD bill was approved on a voice vote Wednesday.
“The Senate stands with this overwhelming majority and with the 38 states who have said ‘no’ to these longer double trailers," Wicker continued. "This is a victory for public safety, states’ rights, and hard-working taxpayers.”
Democrats who supported the effort to eliminate the longer truck provision agreed, saying “allowing the monstrous twin-33 trucks on our highways without a full understanding of the safety implications would be irresponsible and dangerous.
“In my view, such a sweeping change runs counter to all notions of public safety and has no place in an appropriations bill," Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.
"Sen. Wicker and I were successful in stripping the language from the transportation funding bill on the floor today," she continued. "Under our amendment, the Department of Transportation must complete a safety study before any changes to truck length are considered. This is a big win for public safety.”
Trucking groups said it is "unfortunate" that the Senate voted to kill the twin 33 proposal, calling it a "modest" proposal to increase the amount of cargo that can be shipped in the U.S. on a single trip without requiring drivers to work extra hours.
"It is unfortunate the Senate has chosen to give up on what could be a very beneficial change in policy," American Trucking Association President Bill Graves said in a statement.
"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," he continued. "This common sense solution holds the potential to ease congestion, reduce emissions and improve the efficiency of the supply chain."
Graves added that "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," he said. "Ultimately the economy will win this debate."
Safety groups praises lawmakers voting against the proposal to increase the truck length limit, arguing that longer rigs would have made U.S. roads less safe, however.
"Today’s vote was critically important in stopping a few select trucking and shipping companies from bulldozing over public safety to enhance their own profits," Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Jackie Gillan said in a statement.
"Trucks already pose a significant danger to the motoring public," she continued. "Before today is over 11 people will die in a truck crash and 275 will be injured. Each year 4,000 people are killed and another 100,000 more are injured in crashes involving a large truck."
Gillian noted that the Senate has now voted twice in recent weeks to oppose the longer truck proposal, referencing a separate vote last week to instruct negotiators to oppose efforts to increase the length of twin-trailer trucks that are allowed on U.S. roads in a highway bill that is being considered by Congress now.
"Today’s voice vote and last week’s nearly two to one roll call vote (56-31) sends a loud and clear message to the conferees on both bills that oversized trucks should not be sharing the road with motorists until carefully evaluated by the U.S. Department of Transportation," she said.