A new highway funding bill has been slowly creeping through Congress, its progress partly slowed by legislators tacking on a wide range of amendments, some of them having little or nothing to do with highways.
An exception is an amendment introduced yesterday by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced an amendment to ensure that if the length of trailer trucks is increased, it does not endanger U.S. drivers.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an amendment to the transportation funding bill requiring states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers on their highways. Current federal law permits double 28-foot trailers.
The Feinstein-Wicker amendment requires a comprehensive safety study and a formal rulemaking process with public notice and comment period before longer trucks are permitted on highways.
“With thousands of deaths a year, our highways are already dangerous enough,” Feinstein said.“Allowing trucks that are the equivalent of an eight-story building on wheels to share the road with our cars runs counter to all notions of highway safety. It’s only logical that we wait to receive all the facts before making sweeping changes to federal law.”
“I believe states are in the best position to make safety decisions about truck size,” Wicker said. “Nearly 40 states, including Mississippi, prohibit twin 33-foot trucks from operating within their jurisdictions. Initial estimates show that longer, heavier trucks could cost an additional $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion in taxpayer funding to repair highways, not to mention $1.1 billion more for bridge repair and reinforcement. Many Americans agree that Congress should not force states to comply with this top-down mandate.”
The amendment is the same one that Feinstein offered in the Appropriations Committee. As the committee considered the measure, the Department of Transportation advised that there is currently not enough data to draw firm conclusions on the safety implications of double 33-foot trailers. The department therefore recommended that no changes to truck size be considered at this time.
Those opposed to twin 33-foot trailers include Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, AAA, the Teamsters Union, several state trucking associations, the National Troopers Coalition and other law enforcement associations throughout the country.