Senate axes 33-foot twin trailer in DOT $ bill; ATA responds

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The Senate added an amendment Wednesday morning to its 2016 DOT appropriations bill that keeps in place the 28-foot maximum length of double trailers.

The Senate’s original legislation included a provision to increase the limit to 33 feet, but an amendment brought to the Senate floor by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) stripped the bill of the provision. Wicker called the amendment a victory for small business truckers. It was agreed to by a voice vote Wednesday.

The amendment comes a week after the Senate passed a resolution instructing its conferees in the current highway bill negotiations to reject any measures to add the 33-foot proposition to the long-term highway bill being hammered out by lawmakers now.

The Senate resumed work on its DOT funding bill — after tabling it in June — at the same time highway bill conferees began work to produce a unified long-term highway bill.

The Senate could vote this week on a motion to bring its DOT funding bill to the Senate floor for a full vote.

The House’s 2016 DOT-funding bill, which Congress’ lower chamber passed earlier this year, does include the 33-foot provision, so if the Senate passes the bill, there are still hurdles for the legislation to make it to the president for a signature. Either the House will have to take up the Senate version and pass it, or the two chambers will have to form another conference committee to work out a new bill.

The Senate DOT funding bill would also, like the House’s, further entrench 2014’s suspension of certain hours-of-service regulations. The new law would require FMCSA to prove, prior to the suspended hours-of-service rules going back into effect, that the 2013-implemented 34-hour restart rules are safer than pre-2013 rules.

ATA Responds

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves expressed his association’s dismay with the Senate’s vote against a common sense productivity increase for the trucking industry. In a statement, Graves said:

“It is unfortunate the Senate has chosen to give up on what could be a very beneficial change in policy.

“This modest increase in tandem trailer length would reduce the number of truck trips needed to move an increasing amount of freight while making better use of a dwindling pool of drivers.

“This common sense solution holds the potential to ease congestion, reduce emissions and improve the efficiency of the supply chain.

“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.

“I urge lawmakers to retain the language voted on in the House that would permit these safe and efficient vehicles on America’s highways.”