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January 23, 2017 2:30 AM, EST

UPS, FedEx, Amazon Form Twin 33s Advocacy Group

John Sommers II for TT

This story appears in the Jan. 23 print edition of Transport Topics.

A new coalition of shippers and retailers led by UPS Inc., FedEx Corp. and Amazon.com plans to call on members of Congress to support the nationwide access of twin 33-foot trailers, a move likely to ignite a contentious debate among lawmakers during the 115th Congress.

The longer combination trailers would be safer and more fuel- efficient, Americans for Modern Transportation, the new coalition, argued in a Jan. 11 press statement.

Aside from advocating for the industry’s use of twin 33-foot trailers, the group noted it plans to press lawmakers for greater investments in highway funding and to establish automation technologies.

“We need to lay the groundwork for a modern transportation system,” the group wrote. “Central to this goal is combining infrastructure enhancements with efficient trucking and policies as well as incentives for better safety and fuel technology.”

The coalition also will press for funding advancements in vehicle-to- vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure projects, Greg Cohen, CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, a member of the coalition, told Transport Topics on Jan. 18.

“The discussions with regards to autonomous [vehicles] and a lot going on in that area with smarter trucking … they’re going to come,” Cohen said.

Meanwhile, specifics for the allowable weight of trucks will not be part of the group’s agenda, Cohen added.

American Trucking Associations is not a coalition member. In a statement to TT, ATA President Chris Spear said: “ATA’s standing policy supports productivity gains in the areas of both weight and length. ATA, however, defers all advocacy efforts pertaining to weight and length to industry proponents and their respective coalition groups, including the newly formed Americans for Modern Transportation.”

Coalition members also include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Securing America’s Future Energy, the National Industrial Transportation League, International Warehouse Logistics Association, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council and the National Association of Manufacturers. A spokeswoman for the group indicated UPS would be among the coalition’s leaders.

“Americans for Modern Transportation will urge Congress and the Trump administration to adopt policies that will enhance goods movement, mobility and sustainability. UPS supports additional public investment in infrastructure, new smart vehicle technologies, commercial vehicle productivity enhancements including twin 33-foot double trailers and truck platooning,” said Thomas Jensen, vice president of transportation policy at UPS.

In May, Fred Smith, founder and chairman of FedEx Corp., said he was optimistic that nationwide use of 33-foot twin trailers would be able to gain approval during the new presidential administration. The trailers are permitted in parts of 18 states, under specific circumstances.

FedEx ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers. UPS ranks No. 1.

Two years ago, Congress sought to adopt a proposal that would have approved twin 33s industrywide. But pushback from key senators, led by Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), resulted in the proposal’s removal from a fiscal 2016 spending bill.