Posted on / by The Trucking Alliance

Chorus Grows on Truck Driver Safety Risks of Longer Tractor Trailers

The Truckload Carriers Association, representing about 700 U.S. trucking companies, has joined other transportation and workforce organizations in announcing it opposes a congressional proposal that would force states to accept tractors pulling double 33’ trailers on all U.S. highways, a tractor trailer combination that measures 91 feet in length.

Appearing at a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol on October 21, David Heller, TCA’s director of safety and policy, announced that the TCA would oppose the proposal that he said “would be disastrous for many truckload carriers.”

“If this language becomes law, there will be enormous pressure on truckload carriers to switch to twin 33-foot trailers to haul our current truckload freight,” Heller said, adding that “many of our member companies simply cannot afford double 33-foot trailers, which can cost twice as much as a single 53-foot trailer. “

Heller said the risk of injury to the nation’s truck drivers, already among the top five most dangerous jobs, would escalate as drivers “break up the 91-foot trucks four times on each load and manhandle a 3,000-lb. con-gear.”

“As our workforce ages, the last thing we can afford as an industry is a setback to our efforts to improve the job and enhance our drivers’ quality of life,” said Heller.

Heller appeared at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol during which U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., outlined their bipartisan opposition to a federal mandate that would allow large trucks to pull double 33-foot trailers on the nation’s highways.

“We stand united in our efforts to oppose a federal mandate forcing long twin-33 trucks on our nation’s highways,” Wicker said. “Thirty-eight states, including Mississippi, have considered this issue and have chosen not to allow these trucks on their roads. Why should Washington, D.C., tell these states that we know better about safety decisions than they do at the local level? I will continue to fight to ensure that every Senator has the opportunity to vote up or down on this issue before it is allowed to proceed.”

“When I asked the California Department of Transportation whether they support twin-33s, they said they do not support these trucks…Even our federal Department of Transportation asked Congress not to pass any law until they can fully study this issue,” Feinstein said. “Instead, this would be a rider on an appropriations bill, with no discussion on the Commerce Committee, no real discussion by the Appropriations Committee. It is one huge mistake. And I, along with my colleagues, will do everything we can to prevent this from happening.”

“Requiring more road repair and causing crashes, their financial cost justifies a ban,” said Blumenthal, “but they also have costs in lives immeasurable in dollars. I’ll continue this fight against the deadly double 33’s in alliance with like-minded legislators.”

Other participants at the news conference included Jackie Gillan of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which represents safety organizations and insurance companies, Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong, James Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Heller from the Truckload Carriers Association.

Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the Dept. of Transportation’s agency appropriations bill that requiring states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers on their highways.

When the committee considered the measure, the Department of Transportation (DOT) 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.