Three U.S. senators deem twin-33 trailer size increase 'worst proposal'

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 10/22/2015

Three senators are speaking out against a proposed length increase of twin-trailer trucks currently before the Senate.

Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. held a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 21, expressing their opposition to the “twin 33” proposal that will increase the 28-foot limit on trailers to 33 feet. Also presenting during the press conference were Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; Vicksburg, Miss., Police Chief Walter Armstrong; Teamsters President James Hoffa; and Dave Heller, director of safety and policy for Truckload Carriers of America.

The common theme among the speakers was safety. However, issues of economics, infrastructure and the lack of political discussion also surfaced during the conference. In opening statements, Sen. Wicker noted that 38 states have already considered the issue and have decided not to allow twin-33s.

“Why should Washington, D.C., be telling these states that we know better about safety decisions than they do at the local level,” Wicker said during the press conference.

Wicker then pointed out that there have not been any hearings over the proposal, neither in the House, Senate nor any of the transportation committees. Small-business truckers were directly referenced when Wicker discussed the people lawmakers should be listening to.

“We should be careful about saying we are going to run over the opinion of (small-business truckers) and of people in 38 states,” Wicker said.

Sen. Feinstein highlighted several safety issues with the proposal, as well as the complete lack of conversation or research conducted leading up to the plan to increase the size of trailers.

“I can say without hesitation that this is one of the worst proposals I’ve heard in my lifetime of public service,” Feinstein said.

Throughout the press conference, Blumenthal referred to twin-33s as “deadly doubles.”

“This drive for twin-33s really is Washington at its worse,” Blumenthal said. “A secret special-interest effort at the expense of ordinary Americans, our children and our families who are on the roads right now and whose lives will be put at greater risk because of these deadly doubles.”

Police Chief Walter Armstrong discussed the roadway logistics of using longer trailers. Armstrong pointed out that a U.S. Department of Transportation study revealed that the stopping distance of double 33-foot trailers would be 22 feet longer. In terms of highway driving, Armstrong mentioned that several entrances have short or no merge lanes, making it difficult for trucks to enter the highway and for other vehicles to pass.

Armstrong also discussed other hazards, including increased splash and sprays when roads are wet. Infrastructure was also a concern for the police chief as greater weight can cause more damage to roads and bridges.

TCA’s David Heller explained that passing the proposal could force the adoption the twin-33s in order to stay competitive. However, many small-business truckers would not be able to afford the switch, driving them out of business. Commenting on the aging demographic of the trucking industry, Heller discussed the physical demands of operating and maintaining a semi-trailer. Added size and weight can result in an increased physical burden and health issues, Heller noted.

According to a press release from Sen. Wicker, the DOT advised the Senate Appropriations Committee that there is not sufficient evidence to support any safety complaints surrounding twin-33s and that no changes be made to truck size regulations. Despite the recommendation, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to the funding bill earlier this year.

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