Trucking groups are vowing to continue their push for longer twin-trailer cargo rigs on U.S. roads after the proposal was stripped from a Senate appropriations bill on Wednesday.
Trucking companies want Congress to increase a current limit on the length of double-trailer rigs from 28 feet to 33 feet. But the Senate voted Wednesday to remove the proposal from a funding bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
Supporters of the longer rigs, often called "twin 33s," said Thursday that they are going to keep pushing for the longer trucks despite the Senate's vote to put the brakes on the proposal.
"Retailers, small businesses, manufacturers and transportation companies today are redoubling their efforts to reduce truck traffic and truck-related accidents by bringing tried and tested efficiencies to freight trucking," Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking Spokesman Ed Patru said in an email to reporters.
"The broad coalition backing twin 33 legislation may have hit a stumbling back yesterday after the U.S. Senate stripped language on twin trailers from its 2016 Department of Transportation funding bill, but the language remains firmly in place in the version of the bill approved in bipartisan fashion by the People’s House," Patru continued.
"As a result, twin 33 proponents are entering the next few weeks confident that as the two competing versions of the highway appropriations bill are reconciled — most likely in a year-end omnibus measure — good policy will win out over political expediency," he concluded.
Opponents of the proposal argue that the change would have forced 38 states that have made longer trucks illegal accept bigger rigs on their roads.
"A recent independent poll revealed that 77 percent of Americans oppose twin 33-foot trailer trucks on the nation’s highways and byways,” Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support US budget deficit narrows sharply US lawmakers weigh new COVID-19 stimulus funding for businesses MORE (R-Miss.) said in a statement after the amendment to eliminate the longer truck provision from the bill was approved on a voice vote Wednesday.
“The Senate stands with this overwhelming majority and with the 38 states who have said ‘no’ to these longer double trailers," Wicker continued. "This is a victory for public safety, states’ rights, and hard-working taxpayers.”
Democrats who supported the effort to eliminate the longer truck provision agreed, saying “allowing the monstrous twin-33 trucks on our highways without a full understanding of the safety implications would be irresponsible and dangerous.
“In my view, such a sweeping change runs counter to all notions of public safety and has no place in an appropriations bill," Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.
"Sen. Wicker and I were successful in stripping the language from the transportation funding bill on the floor today," she continued. "Under our amendment, the Department of Transportation must complete a safety study before any changes to truck length are considered. This is a big win for public safety.”
Safety groups are noting that the Senate has now voted twice in recent weeks to oppose the truck proposal. In a vote last week, lawmakers instructed negotiators to oppose efforts to increase the length of twin-trailer trucks in a highway bill that Congress is finalizing.
"[Wednesday's] voice vote and last week’s nearly two to one roll call vote (56-31) sends a loud and clear message to the conferees on both bills that oversized trucks should not be sharing the road with motorists until carefully evaluated by the U.S. Department of Transportation," Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Jackie Gillan said in a statement.
The trucking coalition's Patru said the longer truck proposal is "modest five-foot extension in the length of double trailers would eliminate an estimated 6.6 million truck trips per year, according to industry and government estimates.
Patru said the increased efficiency from longer trucks would be "the equivalent of a 1.3 billion-mile reduction in truck traffic." He said the bigger rigs would cause a "reduction in traffic will result in 912 fewer highway accidents attributable to congestion.
"Twin 33s have run over 1.5 million accident-free miles in trials over the past five years, including on the Florida Turnpike, the nation’s third-busiest toll road," he said.
Patru promised to continue pushing for the increased truck length, despite the Senate's vote against the longer rig proposal.
"Over the coming weeks, we intend to make the case forcefully to policymakers that efficiencies in freight transportation go hand-in-hand with safer highways," he said. "The evidence supporting that argument is incontrovertible."