Fleet Management

Senate Motion Urges No Twin 33s in Highway Bill

November 11, 2015

By David Cullen

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Image: U.S. Senate
Image: U.S. Senate

The Senate has approved a bipartisan motion that instructs Senate conferees to the highway bill to oppose the inclusion of a provision that would allow 33-foot long double trailers to operate on highways regardless of state laws.

The motion, spearheaded by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) passed on Nov. 10 by a vote of 56-31, with 13 Senators not voting.

Back in June, the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved an amendment to the Senate version of the T-HUD funding bill requiring states to allow trucks pulling twin 33s on their highways.

Wicker pointed out in a statement released after the motion passed that when Appropriations had considered the length measure, “the Department of Transportation advised that there is currently not enough data to draw firm conclusions on the safety implications of double 33-foot trailers. DOT recommended that no changes to truck size be considered at this time.”

According to Wicker’s office, the motion to instruct Senate highway-bill conferees is similar to an amendment offered by Wicker and Feinstein in July. That amendment called for DOT to complete a “comprehensive safety study” before longer trucks are permitted on highways and require that a formal rulemaking, complete with public notice and comment period, be undertaken to make the change.

“Thirty-eight states say these longer trucks are not safe, and they tell us that they don’t want them on the highways and byways,” Wicker said in the Nov. 10 statement. “I think we should respect their decision. Today’s vote against this federal government mandate sends a strong signal that we stand with the overwhelming majority of Americans who do not want to contend with these longer double trucks on their roads. I am hopeful that those who are writing the omnibus appropriations bill and the final highway bill have taken note of the Senate’s position.”

Feinstein remarked in the statement that “the Senate said loud and clear that twin 33s are dangerous and we must study their safety before allowing longer trailer trucks on our roads. It’s encouraging that a majority of my colleagues agree with this safety-focused, reasonable approach.”

She added that “slipping such a sweeping change into an omnibus funding bill without understanding the consequences is not the way this should be handled.”

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

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 2 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.

On Nov. 11, Steve Williams, president of The Trucking Alliance, applauded the Senate motion calling for conferees to reject twin 33s. "These 91’ long double tractor-trailers are largely untested on U.S. highways and the Senate's bipartisan vote sends a clear message that allowing them without further study would be irresponsible to the public, truck drivers, and smaller trucking companies," he said in a statement.

The Teamsters also approved the Senate action. The union contends that “allowing trucks to pull 33-foot trailers would add an additional 10 feet to the length of existing double trailers, making it harder to pass these trucks and harder for truck drivers to see who's beside them. Longer trucks also need greater stopping distances, and already over-capacity thoroughfares leave little room for driver reaction times when it comes to changing lanes and reduced speeds.”

In a statement, IBT President Jim Hoffa said that “when we must invest in fixing our aging infrastructure, the last thing we should do is introduce larger, more dangerous trucks on our highways. The safety of our members and the entire driving public is too important."

The conference committee is charged with hammering out a compromise between the highway bills passed separately by the House and Senate.

What emerges from conferencing will go to the House and Senate for a final vote. At that point, it will not be open to further amendment so the conference process affords the last opportunity to modify any element of what appears will be, with President Obama’s signature, the first highway bill passed in ten years that funds projects beyond two years

Congress has to complete conferencing and pass a final long-term highway bill or slap on yet another patch by Nov. 20, as that's when the current short-term funding extension expires.

Comments

  1. 1. JStephens [ November 12, 2015 @ 05:28AM ]

    I don't understand why there is so much opposition to the only practical solution for driver shortages and increased equipment cost. I would have considered increasing capacity per unit would have been a good thing. I do understand that for now it will help keep rates up but in 10 years it will just translate into freight sitting on the dock unable to move for a lack of trucks. If we don't anticipate these problems now then we end up having to re-act to an existing "crisis". Size and weight increases are much more obtainable than relying on some undefined way of bringing in 750000 new drivers to operate trucks that will cost twice as much during that time frame.

  2. 2. Steve Bell [ November 13, 2015 @ 05:40AM ]

    There is no driver shortage....pay drivers and you will get drivers ...The only shortage is for drivers who will work cheap and let you treat them like shit...

    Nobody else id expected to work for free in America...it is expected that you pay workers for their time....if you send a crew of electricians or plumbers somewhere and just have them hang around for hours they all get paid...scheduling id not their problem or obligation....you dispatched the driver he should expect to get paid....You want the driver to check tires...fuel your truck...handle freight?...He should expect to get paid for every task preformed ...and for all of his time..

    Every other employer in America would love to be able to tell his employees to just show up and hang out until he has something for them to do on his behalf and maybe he will pay them for some ..but only some of the work performed and nothing for their time...

    Just because driver have been stupid enough to work for free in the past is no reason to expect an endless pool of new drivers to keep on being exploited...And Bigger...Longer ...Heavier trucks driven by cheap labor is not the solution...

 

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