Fleet Management

Senate Again Says Nay to Twin 33s

November 18, 2015

By David Cullen

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U.S. Capitol Photo: David Cullen
U.S. Capitol Photo: David Cullen

The Senate on Nov. 18 approved by voice vote an amendment that strips out a measure included in the fiscal year 2016 Department of Transportation funding bill that would have allowed 33-foot-long double trailers to operate on highways regardless of state laws.

Just a week earlier, the chamber approved a motion that instructed Senate conferees to oppose the inclusion of any such provision in the long-term highway bill compromise being hashed out by the two chambers. Both bipartisan measures were offered by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Back in June, the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved an amendment to the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill (H.R. 2577), which has yet to be passed by Congress, that required states to allow trucks pulling twin 33s on their highways.

Specifically, the amendment calls for DOT to complete a comprehensive safety study before such longer trucks are permitted on highways. It would also require the agency to conduct a formal rulemaking process with public notice and a comment period.

“A recent independent poll revealed that 77% of Americans oppose twin 33-foot trailer trucks on the nation’s highways and byways,” Sen. Wicker said in a statement issued after the T-Hud amendment passed. “The Senate stands with this overwhelming majority and with the 38 states who have said ‘no’ to these longer double trailers. This is a victory for public safety, states’ rights, and hard-working taxpayers.”

In the statement, Sen. Feinstein said “such a sweeping change runs counter to all notions of public safety and has no place in an appropriations bill.” She called passage of the amendment “a big win for public safety” and thanked “the coalition of law enforcement, victims groups, unions and the trucking industry that came together and said no to bigger, more dangerous trucks.”

The trucking industry has been markedly divided on the twin 33 proposal.

Those within trucking opposed to denying the right of states to prohibit the operation of twin 33s include the chief executives of over 13 truckload and two LTL carriers; the state trucking associations of Arizona, Louisiana and Mississippi; the Truckload Carriers Association; The Trucking Alliance (a coalition of trucking businesses that lobbies for safety improvements); and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Trucking stakeholders in favor of allowing the nationwide running of twin 33s include the American Trucking Associations and the Coalition for Efficient & Responsible Trucking, a nonprofit organized by leading less-than-truckload carriers.

After the T-Hud amendment was approved, the American Trucking Associations declared it was disappointed by the vote against a “common-sense productivity enhancement.”

"It is unfortunate the Senate has chosen to give up on what could be a very beneficial change in policy,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves 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. This common-sense solution holds the potential to ease congestion, reduce emissions and improve the efficiency of the supply chain.

"There are so many upsides to the use of twin 33s that it is inevitable this change will come to pass,” he continued. “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."

Graves urged lawmakers to “retain the language voted on in the House that would permit these safe and efficient vehicles on America’s highways.”

Related: Senate Motion Urges No Twin 33s in Highway Bill