Advocates for Highway & Auto SafetyToday, Congress put the safety of all motorists before the special interest agenda of a few select trucking and shipping companies. The proposal to force all states to allow double 33-feet trailer trucks, known as “Double 33s,” was not included in the omnibus spending bill.

These monster-size trucks shouldn’t be on the road and they shouldn’t be slipped into an omnibus spending bill. This lethal federal mandate would have meant oversized trucks at least 84 feet long – the length of an eight-story office building – sharing the road next to families. Opposition to this proposal was clear and compelling. 

The Senate voted on two separate occasions against overturning state laws to permit Double 33s. Additionally, a large coalition of public health and safety groups, trucking companies, law enforcement, truck drivers, truck crash victims and survivors, rail workers and suppliers, and rail short lines objected. A recent public opinion poll found that an overwhelming 77 percent of the public opposed the measure. 

Double 33s would have resulted in a degradation of safety on our roads and highways at a time when fatalities are on the rise. Funding bills are becoming magnets for special interests seeking to add riders that roll back safety laws and regulations that would never pass Congressional oversight and public review.

We applaud the budget negotiators for dropping this provision and thank Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and many other members of Congress and their dedicated staffs for their leadership on this issue. We also commend the budget negotiators for increasing the funding levels for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

While we are disappointed that the appropriators did not fully fund NHTSA for the amount set in the authorizing bill, the FAST Act (Pub. L. 114-94), the increase was desperately needed in light of the continuing string of auto industry defects, recalls and cover-ups.

Unfortunately, the bill includes an extension of the “tired truckers” provision enacted in last year’s spending bill. This provision takes away truck drivers “weekends off” and pushes them to work up to 82 hours a week.

Annually 4,000 people are killed and another 100,000 more are injured in crashes involving a large truck, and fatigue is a major factor and well-known crash cause. Crashes such as the one which seriously injured Tracy Morgan and killed James McNair are jarring reminders of why this provision, known as the Collins amendment, should be stopped.

The approaching holiday season should not be an opportunity to reward special interests with goodies and favors that jeopardize safety. Unfortunately, this bill included exemptions from federal safety standards for select special interests.

We urge Congress to stop the tradition of delivering industry handouts wrapped in a big red bow and instead give constituents the gift of safer roads, sound infrastructure, and sensible legislation that doesn’t result in more deaths and costs to families.

triple_trailerThe House on Tuesday defeated an amendment to a $325 billion highway funding bill that would have let states decide whether they want to allow heavier trucks on their roads.

The amendment, from Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), would allow states to decide whether they want to increase a current limit of 80,000 pounds for cargo trucks to 91,000 pounds. 

Proponents wanted to attach it to the highway bill in an attempt to end a bitter fight over truck weights that has raged for years in Washington. The proposal was rejected 187-236 in a House floor vote.

Read more from The Hill

triple_trailerThree U.S. senators said they will fight a proposal in Congress that would allow an increase in the length of twin-trailer trucks allowed on U.S. roadways.

At a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), announced their opposition to a federal mandate that would allow trucks to pull double 33-foot trailers — up from the current limit of 28 feet — on the nation’s highways.

Read more from Progressive Railroading.

triple_trailerThe SMART Transportation Division’s legislative officers attended a public-input meeting held by the U.S. Department of Transportation May 29 to study truck size and weight limits.

Written testimony from the legislative office included the complete survey results from a poll conducted by the SMART TD in Indiana and Missouri regarding truck size and weight limits.

A portion of that survey was published in the May 2013 SMART TD News.

In written testimony submitted to the DOT, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch stated: “By very large margins, these surveys show that the public at large opposes any increase in truck size and weight.

“Our labor union opposes increasing the size and weight of trucks as well because doing so will divert traffic from privately owned and maintained railroads to our already overburdened publicly built and maintained highways.

“Bigger trucks will increase highway congestion and further damage our inadequate infrastructure, and will put railroads at a further competitive disadvantage than they already are.

“Transporting freight by rail is more fuel efficient, saves our nation’s highways and produces far less pollutants than does transporting freight by trucks.

“Public policy decisions should encourage more freight to be moved by rail, not less.”

To view the SMART TD’s complete polling results from the Indiana and Missouri surveys, click here.

To view the DOT’s survey worksheets, click here.

WASHINGTON – UTU members can make a difference in Congress, and your emails and phone calls — as requested by the UTU International — helped derail an attempt by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) to permit longer and heavier killer trucks on more of the nation’s highways.

The enabling provision – to permit extended use of triple trailers and trucks weighing almost 100,000 pounds — was pulled from a proposed highway funding bill by committee members following significant public opposition made known to members of Congress.

Instead, the committee voted to delay consideration of the provision for three years so as to properly study the impact of longer and heavier trucks, which includes the shifting of freight from rails to the highway.

The Association of American Railroads, citing a study out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimated that extending, nationwide, current limited use of longer and heavier trucks would reduce rail traffic by 19 percent and put almost eight million more trucks on the road.

“Before we put the public safety at risk, we should do the study and make an informed decision,” said Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).

The Senate previously voted for a study on the issue.