Truck safety advocates scored a partial victory Wednesday when Congress killed language in the $1.8-trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016 that would have allowed commercial carriers to add 5 feet to the length of each twin “pup” trailer, extending them from 28 feet to 33 feet.
Highway safety experts and advocates have argued that the longer length of the twin trailers would make it trickier for trailers to safely merge onto highways and navigate exit ramps. The language also would have increased the maximum allowable cargo weight from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds, putting more wear on highways and making the vehicles much slower to slow down and stop.
The trucking industry advocated for the lengthened trailers, arguing that they would not add more weight or make the vehicle slower to respond. Supporters also claim that the extra trailer space would reduce the number of trucks needed to transport products. They estimated that an extra five feet per trailer would eliminate more than 6.5 million truck trips each year, prevent 912 crashes, reduce fuel consumption, and increase productivity.
“We’re disheartened that Congress allowed itself to be cowed by the fear-mongering tactics of anti-truck lobbyists,” said American Trucking Associations Chairman Pat Thomas, who also serves as senior vice president of state government affairs for UPS. “By removing language that would have allowed twin 33s on U.S. highways, Congress has passed up a huge opportunity to improve highway safety and trucking’s efficiency.”
Despite Congress’s refusal to allow longer double trailers on U.S. highways, the trucking industry did score a major victory when language in the omnibus bill called for the FMCSA to produce more evidence documenting the effectiveness of its new hours-of-service (HOS) rules that govern the work and rest periods for commercial drivers. The bill effectively suspends those rules indefinitely.