The U.S. Senate voted late yesterday in favor of a motion opposing a federal mandate that would force states to allow large trucks to pull double 33-foot trailers. This successful effort was spearheaded by U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The motion passed by on a bipartisan vote of 56-31 with 13 Senators not voting.
“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. “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.”
“Today’s vote was a victory for public safety,” Feinstein said. “The Senate said loud and clear that twin 33’s 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. Slipping such a sweeping change into an omnibus funding bill without understanding the consequences is not the way this should be handled.”
Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the transportation funding bill requiring states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers on their highways. A tractor trailer with two 33-foot trailers measures approximately 91 feet in total length – equivalent to an 8-story office building. Currently, 38 states do not allow these longer trucks to operate within their jurisdictions.
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.
The motion to instruct Senate conferees to the highway bill is similar to an amendment offered by Wicker and Feinstein in July. Specifically, that amendment would require DOT to complete a comprehensive safety study before longer trucks are permitted on highways. It would also require the agency to conduct a formal rulemaking process with public notice and comment period.
Steve Williams, president of The Trucking Alliance, applauded the Senate’s action. “These 91’ long double tractor-trailers are largely untested on U.S. highways and the Senate’s bipartisan vote will hopefully send a message that allowing these double trailers unconditionally would be to the detriment of the public, truck drivers, and smaller trucking companies.”
Other highway related organizations supporting the Wicker/Feintsein motion included Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the American Automobile Association, the Teamsters Union, the Truckload Carriers Association, the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, the Mississippi, Arizona and Louisiana state trucking associations, the National Troopers Coalition, and other law enforcement associations throughout the country.