Senate Funding Panel Includes Twin 33 Provision in Fiscal 2016 Transportation Bill
WASHINGTON — Senate appropriators on June 25 voted to include a provision that would allow the use of twin 33-foot trailers nationwide in a fiscal 2016 transportation funding bill.
The provision, introduced as an amendment sponsored by Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, was adopted by a vote of 16-14, mostly along party lines. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) voted favorably on the amendment, while Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) opposed it.
Shelby argued his proposal to allow such twin trailers would make the nation’s highways safer, a sentiment echoed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee.
The amendment would allow state departments of transportation, as well as governors, to request an exemption to the provision if they are incapable of safely accommodating a commercial truck with the twin 33-foot configuration. It also would direct the Secretary of Transportation to update Congress three years after the bill’s enactment on a crash data analysis that compares twin 28-foot trailers and twin 33-foot trailers. The secretary also would be required to recommend technologies, such as collision avoidance and stability control, that would improve safety.
Many Democrats, however, disagreed with Shelby’s assessment, arguing the longer trailers would make highways unsafe. Prior to the vote on the amendment, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged the panel to reject the proposal.
Overall, the $55.6 billion draft funding measure would provide $572 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and $500 million for a high-profile infrastructure grants program. The measure was reported to the floor, as amended, by a vote of 20 to 10.
“The demands for more infrastructure are significant. The budget requires us to set priorities, and this Senate bill makes those choices and focuses on using the taxpayer money wisely,” Cochran said.
Republican leaders who manage the floor have yet to indicate when the bill would be considered before the full Senate.
“We want to thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for moving forward a 2016 spending bill that advances the cause of safety and protects the environment,” said ATA President Bill Graves.
“We know that the FMCSA’s restart restrictions increased truck traffic during the daytime, leading to an increase in accidents and we know that a modest increase in tandem trailer length will eliminate millions of truck trips annually,” Graves said. “Further, we know the leading causes of truck crashes are the actions of other vehicles, so the best way to eliminate crashes on our highways is to limit interactions between trucks and cars. This bill takes steps to do that."