Back so soon? Fight to allow 33-foot trailers resumes

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Monday, January 18, 2016

Proposals to allow 33-foot trailers have been struck down in both the latest appropriations bill and transportation funding bill, but the fight continues. U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., has introduced a bill that will force states to allow 33-foot trailers on federal highways.

HR4371: Article I Consolidated Appropriations Amendments of 2016 attempts to make amendments to the omnibus bill that was signed into law on Dec. 18 last year. Among the several changes, Rep. Buck’s proposed bill would increase the federal length limit of trailers from 28 feet to 33 feet.

Currently, Title 49 of the U.S. Code prohibits states from enforcing any regulation that would limit the size of a trailer of or less than 28 feet. Rep. Buck’s bill strikes out language referring to 28-foot trailers and replaces it with similar language referencing a max length of 33 feet.

Attempts to increase trailer size to 33 feet were rejected in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act. Undeterred, certain lawmakers tried to sneak in a similar proposal for 33-foot trailers in the appropriations bill HR2029: Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. Again, the proposal was deleted from the final draft.

“Although similar language was defeated, proponents of increases came quite close to securing language in the FAST Act,” said Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s director of government affairs. “The fact that we are seeing a free-standing bill introduced so closely to massive reauthorization legislation demonstrates that these fights are far from over.”

Although previous attempts to pass legislation allowing 33-foot trailers have come close to occurring, Rep. Buck’s latest effort is expected to fall short. GovTrack.us predicts HR4371’s chances of being enacted to be 1 percent.

Last October, three U.S. senators deemed proposals for a trailer-length increase to 33 feet as the “worst proposal.” Led by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the press conference denouncing size increases included speakers from safety groups, law enforcement and Teamsters President James P. Hoffa.

Even with plenty of support and victories behind keeping the length limit to 28 feet, proponents of increases continue to march on. O’Neill-Kaumo urges truckers to keep the dialogue moving.

“We likely will see efforts to increase weight continue to be ramped up as well. It is important our members continue to discuss their concerns with their lawmakers,” O’Neill-Kaumo said. “Increases bring up safety ramifications and drivers often simply don’t feel comfortable driving heavier vehicles.”

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