New Bill Better For Trucking, But An "Attack on Safety"?by Jana Ritter - Published: 5/04/2015
A $55.3 billion transportation spending bill pushed by FedEx and a number of other carrier companies was unveiled in congress last week and already its creating a cross fire of controversy. The bill hopes to introduce a new generation of bigger-capacity trucks to accommodate industry demands and it also seeks to eliminate plans requiring companies to carry higher insurance coverage, which would ultimately make it harder for regulators to re-impose the restrictive rest requirements for drivers. However, safety watchdogs and advocates argue that the motives to block the many safety measures opposed by the trucking industry, also come at a time when increasing truck-related deaths are already interfering with an overall improvement in highway safety. They call it a flat out "attack on safety."
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The trucking industry has become an influential force in Washington and in addition to spending $9.85 million lobbying Congress last year; it contributed $7.96 million to political candidates, parties and action committees. In fact, Nita Lowey, the senior Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee has voiced her concern that the industry has even been able to influence major policy changes through unrelated budget legislation. She feels that a provision in the appropriations bill allowing two trailers of up to 33-feet to be hauled in tandem is very concerning.
“This is the most aggressive attack on safety I’ve seen in my lifetime,” she said citing research indicating that double-trailer combinations have crash rates 15 percent higher than single-trailer rigs. Jackie Gillan is president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of consumer-rights groups and insurance companies. She also adds to the safety concern saying that longer trucks will be harder for drivers to handle and harder to stop.
But according to a study commissioned by FedEx, Con-way Inc. and other shippers behind the bill, their statistics indicate that the extra five feet in length of each trailer would save gas and cut carbon emissions and would actually reduce the number of trucks on the road. “There’s no safety issue,” Dave Osiecki, executive vice president with the American Trucking Associations added. “There’s an environmental benefit and a fuel-economy benefit.”
Many in the trucking industry say that longer combinations are simply what is needed to grow with the changing demands and according to the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking, the lighter packages being delivered for online shoppers is expected to continue growing 40 percent over the next decade. The trucking coalition also points out that twin 33-foot trailers have already been permitted in Florida and South Dakota. Dave Osiecki also adds that research has already shown stopping distances are the same with 28-foot and 33-foot trailers, and the longer trucks are actually more stable. He also says that even 33-foot trailer combos crammed with packages wouldn’t exceed the standard weight, yet they would be able to carry 18 percent more freight.
Perhaps truck drivers really should weigh-in on this matter, the people actually doing the driving. Do you think bigger trailers would be better?