of the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines heard
testimony in Sanford, FL, March 24 on proposals to enhance safety
– but some, including the AAA and the Owner-Operator Independent
Drivers Association, think the proposals would actually result in
Thomas E. Petri, R-WI, chairman of the subcommittee, and Rep. John
L. Mica, R-FL, conducted the hearing. Mica is the senior member
of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
speed limits for trucks and cars, relegating trucks to the right
lane and permitting larger, heavier and longer trucks to operate
on the nation’s highways were among the ideas.
in the trucking industry promote the idea that 'bigger is better'
when it comes to meeting the demands of moving freight. AAA will
vigorously oppose such action,” said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice
president of the AAA Auto Club South, the regional AAA club representing
Florida, Georgia and western Tennessee.
longer and heavier trucks create serious safety hazards and accelerate
the deterioration of highway pavement and bridges. An 80,000-pound
semi-trailer truck places a load equal to 9,600 cars on the roads.
Adding 15,000 pounds to that can double the amount of damage to
the nations' highways," Bakewell added.
in comments to the committee, OOIDA member Paul Sasso, Edgewater,
FL, who attended the hearing, said: “Each year, 5,000 people are
killed and 100,000 are injured in crashes with heavy trucks. The
U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2000 Comprehensive Truck Size
and Weight Study confirmed that making trucks longer and heavier
would only increase those numbers.”
added: “Split speed limits and restricted lanes are quite simply
counterproductive on the overall scope of safety. Longer and heavier
vehicles are not an answer to the safety problem … these vehicles
do not benefit anyone but the shippers and receivers.”
core issue, Sasso said, is that training standards are not motivated
by safety, but by economics – the bottom line.
is no way that someone in three weeks or less can acquire even the
most basic skills necessary to safely operate a CMV on our nation’s
roadways,” he said. “Yet there are some groups that put forth the
proposition that entry-level training standards should be left up
to the companies.”
also took issue with Rep. Mica’s recent proposal to eliminate trucks
from the Orlando area during peak traffic periods.
of productivity is the biggest issue in trucking today,” Sasso said.
“The most important issue concerning safety is the many hours, 30
to 40 each week, that a driver spends uncompensated in the course
of duty. This ranges from filling out paperwork to waiting at docks.
This is uncompensated time and it contributes to fatigue – which
is one of the leading causes of accidents among all drivers.”
Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act was introduced
in the previous Congress as H.R. 3132. It will soon be reintroduced,
according to press reports.
bill would extend existing, common sense limits on truck size and
weight to the entire National Highway System,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s
executive vice president, said. “SHIPA would also close loopholes
in the law that allow the proliferation of overweight truck operations.”
Bakewell said, "The bill does not roll back current state laws;
rather, it shifts to Congress an appropriate national jurisdiction
over any proposed increases affecting the National Highway System."
added, "What we clearly do need is assistance from Congress
toward better enforcement and stiffer penalties for those who violate
the existing federal limitations. In Florida and other states, penalties
for illegal operation of overweight trucks have become nothing more
than a cost of doing business."
fines have not been increased since 1953, he added.
in Florida, two legislators have already introduced legislation
to increase penalties for overweight trucks. They are Rep. Ed Jennings,
D-Gainesville, who introduced HB503, and Sen. Les Miller, D-Tampa,
who introduced SB202.
Dick Larsen, senior editor