Trailer Talk

LTL Carriers Group Unhappy Over Rejection of Twin 33s

Longer doubles would've boosted efficiency, but Congress killed the idea on safety grounds.

December 16, 2015

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Wabash National displayed a 33-foot trailer at an industry meeting last year. Labels showed the extra 5 feet of cargo space vs. current 28-footers. Photo: Tom Berg 
Wabash National displayed a 33-foot trailer at an industry meeting last year. Labels showed the extra 5 feet of cargo space vs. current 28-footers. Photo: Tom Berg

Forget about twin 33-foot trailers for a while. House Republicans stripped a provision indirectly authorizing the longer rigs from the 2016 omnibus appropriations measure that now goes on for likely Senate approval.  

The provision would’ve allowed states to legalize twin 33s in addition to twin 28-foot trailers that got federal approval more than 30 years ago. Railroads and safety advocates lobbied against it. Enough members of Congress listened and they came out against it too, on safety grounds.

Some segments of the trucking industry, including the Truckload Carriers Association, also opposed the idea because they didn't want shippers pressuring them to buy equipment that wouldn't have offered a payback.

One group that strongly backed the idea is the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking (CERT), made up of LTL and package carriers that wanted to use the 33s. They had backing from numerous outside groups. The group expressed its unhappiness this week in a statement from CERT spokesman Ed Patru:

“It’s unfortunate and disappointing that political scare tactics won the day over sound policy. In rejecting a modest extension in the length of twin trailers, Congress missed an opportunity to bring long-overdue efficiencies to freight trucking that would have produced tangible safety, economic and environmental benefits at a time when so many roads and bridges have fallen into disrepair after years of neglect.

“The nation’s population has grown by 100 million since the last time Congress allowed efficiencies to less than truckload (LTL) freight trucking. In that time, two generations of Americans have come to rely on Internet shopping in a way that could not have been imagined 30 years ago. Over the next decade, LTL shipments that rely on twin 28-foot double trailers will increase by 40 percent – from 145 million tons per year to 204 million tons – as more consumers turn to parcel carriers for efficient package delivery services. 

“This proposal to modestly extend the length of twin 28-foot trailers by five feet without lifting the federal cap on weight would have: 

  • Eliminated an estimated 6.6 million truck trips annually
  • Resulted in 912 fewer highway accidents every year
  • Economized 204 million gallons of fuel yearly
  • Reduced carbon emissions by 4.4 billion pounds 

“The twin 33 provision received bipartisan support in a House Appropriations Committee vote, as well as a Senate Appropriations Committee vote. The measure was voted on and approved in bipartisan fashion by the full House of Representatives.” 

But it was not to be. Maybe next year?

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

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Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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