Senate Votes to Delay Twin 33s Approval in Transportation Funding Bill

The Senate on Nov. 18 easily agreed to delay approval of twin 33-foot trailers nationwide, a key provision in a fiscal 2016 transportation funding bill.

By a voice vote, the chamber adopted an amendment to the funding bill, offered by Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker, that would allow the secretary of transportation to sign off on increases to the length of tractor-trailers only after determining through a study the increase would not negatively impact public safety.

The study would need to assess the public safety benefits of extending the length of trucks allowed on federal highways from twin 28-foot trailers to twin 33s.

In a statement shortly after the vote, Wicker said: “The Senate stands with this overwhelming majority and with the 38 states who have said ‘no’ to these longer double trailers. This is a victory for public safety, states’ rights and hard-working taxpayers.”

The vote on Wicker’s amendment occurred soon after senators kicked off their consideration of the legislation that would keep transportation agencies, including trucking regulators, funded through the fiscal year. On Nov. 10, the Senate voted 56-31 to call on the negotiators of a highway reauthorization bill — different from the fiscal 2016 transportation funding bill — to delay the approval of twin 33-foot trailers nationwide. That nonbinding motion also was sponsored by Wicker.

In June, a Senate panel voted to include the provision allowing the use of twin 33s nationwide in the transportation funding bill. The House-passed version includes a similar provision.

American Trucking Associations and other industry groups strongly support approving the use of twin-33s. 

"There are so many upsides to the use of twin 33s that it is inevitable this change will come to pass. Decision makers cannot continue to embrace unsafe and unproductive strategies, and expect to have this nation’s freight continue to get delivered. Ultimately the economy will win this debate,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves.

Ed Patru with the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking noted this week that twin 33s are earning support because “they will not only make freight trucking more efficient, but also reduce trucking congestion, cut down on accidents and generally make highways safer for truckers and motorists.”

The Republican-led Senate has yet to say if it would call up other funding bills before a stop-gap government funding measure expires Dec. 11. It is likely that both chambers will consider an expansive funding bill, known as an omnibus, before the short-term funding extension expires.