Opponents ramp up efforts to stop longer, heavier trucks

Trucking interests, led by LTL carriers, have been pushing legislation that would allow 33-foot double trailers on American roadways. Opponents are ramping up efforts to stop it. ( Photo: )

As the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development takes up consideration of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations bill to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation, opponents of longer and heavier trucks have ramped up a campaign to stop legislative efforts to make 33-foot doubles and 90,000-pound-plus GVWs commonplace.

“Special trucking interests are trying to use the appropriations process to circumvent and evade committees of jurisdiction and tack on anti-safety truck riders,” said a statement from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Potential changes to our Nation’s surface transportation policies and laws should be given full consideration and debate by Congress and not attached to a must-pass appropriations bill.” 

The group’s release quoted several opponents of heavier and longer trucks, noting that “bigger and heavier trucks mean bigger problems for the safety of all road users.”

Specifically, the group opposes any efforts to:

  • Extend the length of double trailer trucks by 10 feet and “green light” Double 33s;
  • Increase truck weights by upping the current national limit of 80,000 lbs.; and,
  • Create “pilot programs” or carve out additional state or industry exemptions.  

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety also is opposed to efforts in Oregon to include exemptions for “electric batteries and length increase for certain trucks.”

“Each day on average, 12 people are killed and 300 more are injured in crashes involving a large truck.  In any other mode of transportation, these numbers would be intolerable,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Congress should be taking action to address, and not exacerbate, this national safety problem. Yet, special trucking interests are pushing them to rollback safety protections and allow bigger and heavier trucks on our roads and overturn critical rest breaks for truck drivers which help combat fatigue.”

More than two dozen interest groups sent a letter to U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, chairman, and David Price, ranking member, of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations, urged the committee to ignore efforts to include riders related to truck size and weight.

“Increasing the length of double tractor-trailers by five feet per trailer would result in a configuration that is approximately the size of an 8-story building. These massive trucks would not only be more difficult for other motorists to maneuver around and co-exist on the roadways with but would also be more difficult for truck drivers to operate,” the group’s letter stated. “For example, ‘double 33s’ traveling at 60 miles per hour require an additional 22 feet to stop compared to existing twin-trailer configurations. Considering crashes in which a truck rear-ends a passenger vehicle have gone up 82 percent from 2009 to 2015, any extra stopping distance will make such crashes more likely and increase the severity of the crashes that are already occurring. Claims that longer trucks will improve safety ignore the facts and defy reality.

“Despite misleading assertions to the contrary, longer or heavier trucks will not reduce the number of trucks on our roads or the number of truck vehicles miles traveled or the number of truck crashes,” the letter continued. “In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation  found that any reduction in the number of trucks due to a truck size increase would be offset within a year of implementation. An increase in trailer size or weight limit would divert freight from the rails to trucks, as the latter industry will have a greater capacity to ship via longer or heavier trailers – thereby disrupting and diminishing intermodal efficiency.”

Advocates for longer and heavier trucks believe their will bring increased efficiencies, including fewer trucks on the highways, and that they post no additional safety risks.

The Association of American Railroads also recently came out against longer trucks, leading the group Americans for Modern Transportation to issue a rebuttal.

“We are extremely disappointed that the AAR, on behalf of the short-line railroads, is opposing efforts within Congress to modernize trucking equipment and allow twin 33-foot trailers to operate on our nation’s highways,” AMT’s Executive Director, Randy Mullet, said. “The short-line railroads have determined that holding productivity hostage, as a means of holding back their competition, is more important than the travelers, consumers, and businesses that would benefit from the safe and efficient movement of freight on our roads.

“Rather than letting the railroads stand in the way, Congress must move forward on common-sense policies such as twin 33-foot trailers that would reduce congestion on our roads, improve the safety for travelers, lower costs for consumers and businesses, decrease the amount of wear and tear on roads and bridges, and bring about meaningful environmental gains.”

AMT counts among its members a diverse group of industry stakeholders, including XPO Logistics, PODS, Manufacture Alabama and Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, FedEx, UPS, WYRC, and Amazon and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The group claims that by extending 28-foot trailers to 33 feet would result in 3.1 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled, 4,500 fewer truck crashes each year, and 53.2 million hours saved due to less congestion.

“With fewer miles traveled, the LTL industry would use less fuel — conservative estimates show a 255-million-gallon reduction in annual diesel fuel use. That is a lot of crude that is not drilled, transported, refined, transported again and burned to power the LTL fleet,” it claimed. “Furthermore, a five-foot extension for twin trailers, with no change in the weight limits, would result in 2.9 million fewer tons of carbon emissions.” 

Daphne Izer, co-founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), said the bill is being used to “roll back rule protecting against truck driver fatigue.”

“The latest effort, which would deny state meal and rest breaks, goes after breaks that are, in most cases, no more than 10 minutes for rest or a half hour for lunch,” she said. “At a time when truck crashes are at their highest level since 1996, Congress should be doing more to address the issue of truck driver fatigue, a long-identified safety concern, not slipping in a provision that overturns the ability of states to create safe working conditions for their truck drivers.  This is a sweeping policy change that should receive the full vetting of data collection and analysis, public hearings and Congressional review.”

One Comment

  1. How about trying to stop the 4 wheel from texting cutting off 18 wheelers. I’ve seen people cutting off trucks and stopping dead in front of us right in front of our useless law enforcement. Reason is they the law enforcement are doing the same thing talking on phone texting driving down the road. I can’t believe that you people are blaming it all on us truck drivers.

  2. As for the heavier trucks being on the road that theoretically break up the road so much why don’t the colonies and cities and states use the money that the truckers put out there to keep the roads going work on them more than 3 days a week and have 95 people standing around watching one person work.

  3. Obviously these legislators in Washington DC don’t understand that if trucks don’t drive you don’t get your products. Especially the people that have never driven a truck and don’t know what it is like to be out on the road. You sit on your rear end up there in Congress and say bad things about truck drivers all the time but you don’t understand that if you don’t get your stuff the truck drivers can’t drive. Besides that if trucks don’t drive everything stops.

  4. Heavier trucks burn more that ohhh we will save fuel gets blown out the door…and if youre woried about driver fatigue..GET RID OF THE ELDs they MAKE you slerp even if you are not tired..and make you work even if you cant stsy awake..

  5. I also see this as an attempt to get rid of fossil fuel. They say it would use less fuel, the truckers and trucking companies would be taxed more Just to compensate for the extra road repairs due to the extra weight of the trucks. Our highways are bad enough, we don’t need to be adding extra weight to the trucks.
    There are a lot of city streets that are not truck friendly and adding an extra 5 feet to the doubles would only complicate things even more.
    So that just goes to show that the people proposing these policies don’t know a damn thing about trucking.
    The biggest problem we have now with trucking is that the bearucrats are involved and they don’t know squat.

  6. The people that are proposing these so called "Common Sense" policies should absolutely be slapped.
    What the hell do they know about trucking? I would bet money that none of them has even sat their ass in a truck let alone drive one.
    People that are coming out with these policies don’t know a damn thing about trucking and when more people start getting killed on the highways, who do you think their going to blame? The truck driver.
    So they need to shut the hell up and leave the truck driving to the truckers.

  7. Retired truck driver, they are long enough and for God’s sake they are to heavy, look at what they are doing to our roads and highways, besides the drivers today can not handle the ones they are driving today, they need to learn how to respect the weight and the length, it is verry dangerous on our highways today no experience,

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at