A U.S. Senate vote this week opposing a federal mandate that would force states to allow large trucks to pull double 33-foot trailers was applauded by the Teamsters Union, which said the 56-31 vote will keep larger, more dangerous trucks off the nation’s highways.
“On behalf of our more than 700,000 members who turn a key for a living, I would like to thank the 56 senators that took a stand today for highway safety,” said Jim Hoffa, the Teamsters general president. “At a time when we must invest in fixing our aging infrastructure, the last thing we should do is introduce larger, more dangerous trucks on our highways. The safety of our members and the entire driving public is too important.”
Hoffa said more than 4,000 lives are claimed each year on U.S. highways in accidents involving tractor trailers, adding 38 states currently don’t allow “twin 33s” on their roads. The federal standard is 28 feet for double trailers.
This Senate effort was spearheaded by U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.), and Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.)
Wicker said the vote against the 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.”
Feinstein said, “The Senate said loud and clear that twin 33s 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.
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.
Those opposed to twin 33-foot trailers include Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the American Automobile Association, the Teamsters Union, the Truckload Carriers Association, the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, several state trucking associations, the National Troopers Coalition, and other law enforcement associations throughout the country.