Senators slam 'deadly double' trucks

Senators slam 'deadly double' trucks
© Cameron Lancaster

A bipartisan group of senators slammed a proposal to increase the length of twin-trailer trucks that are allowed on U.S. roads on Wednesday. 

Trucking groups are pushing Congress to increase a current limit of 28-foot trailers on trucks that carry two loads to rigs that are 33 feet long apiece in an upcoming highway funding bill.

Sens. Roger WickerRoger WickerAs US healthcare changes, preventative screenings can't stop A guide to the committees: Senate Pruitt confirmation sets stage for Trump EPA assault MORE (R-Miss.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges Human rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch Feinstein sees slipping support among California voters: poll MORE (D-Calif.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings MORE (D-Conn.) said at a press conference at the Capitol with labor leaders and safety advocates that the longer trucks would accidents more likely on U.S. roads. 

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“We stand united in our efforts to oppose a federal mandate forcing long twin-33 trucks on our nation’s highways,” Wicker said in a statement released after the event. 

“Thirty-eight states, including Mississippi, have considered this issue and have chosen not to allow these trucks on their roads," he continued. "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.”

Feinstein and Blumenthal agreed, saying the current 28 foot limit on twin-trailer trucks should be left in place. 

"When I asked the California Department of Transportation whether they support twin-33s, they said they do not support these trucks," Feinstein said. "Even our federal Department of Transportation asked Congress not to pass any law until they can fully study this issue." 

“Deadly doubles ‎are a dire threat to public safety,” Blumenthal added. “These massive, menacing highway hogs endanger cars and decimate roads. Requiring more road repair and causing crashes, their financial cost justifies a ban – but they also have costs in lives immeasurable in dollars." 

The proposal to increase the length of twin-trailer trucks was included in a highway funding bill that was passed by the Senate in July, over the objection of safety advocates. The fight is revving up again now that the House is scheduled to markup a highway bill of its own on Thursday. 

Trucking groups have said the so-called "twin 33" proposal would increase the amount of cargo that can be shipped in the U.S. on a single trip without requiring drivers to work extra hours.  

"Opponents of trucking efficiency routinely assert that twin trailers are dangerous or unsafe, as if the claim were settled fact," Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking spokesman Ed Patru said in an email to reporters this week.

"Some special interests have even conducted 'studies' that conclude 33-foot twin trailers carry an 11 percent higher fatality rate than single twin trailers," Patru continued. "But what about the facts? A Department of Transportation analysis concluded that multi-trailers have a three percent lower crash rate than single trailer trucks. Those government statistics align with the real-world experiences of CERT member companies operating twin 33s in states that currently allow them." 

Critics have said the longer trucks would be unsafe, pointing to crashes such as the 2014 accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan. 

“Our member companies share the concerns that others here have voiced about the impact of this legislation on motorist safety and highway infrastructure,” Truckload Carriers Association's (TCA) Director of Safety and Policy David Heller said at the Wednesday press conference. 

“At a minimum, there has not been sufficient dialogue around this language to understand its full impact," Heller continued. “For these reasons, the Truckload Carriers Association is proud to stand with Senators Blumenthal, Feinstein, and Wicker in urging Congress to oppose any legislation with provisions related to nationwide changes in truck size.”

The senators who are protesting the proposal to increase truck lengths on Wednesday said they are basing their opposition on recommendations from federal highway regulators, who have been opposed to the proposal. 

"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," the senators' offices said. "DOT recommended that no changes to truck size be considered at this time."