Unlikely Alliance Driving Against Heavier Truck Legislation

by Jana Ritter - Published: 5/08/2013

Certain lawmakers, safety groups and truckers don't come together very often, but when the cause is big enough – and in this case heavy enough – a united front means a louder voice. 

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Yesterday, the Teamsters, the Truck Safety Coalition, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, and representatives of several families whose members were truck crash victims, held a news conference marking the re-introduction of legislation that would prevent an increase in size and weight allowances for trucks. Adding to the strange mix of often opposing sides are safety groups such as CRASH, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and AAA. When it comes to opposing longer, heavier trucks on America's highways, united they all stand.

"Corporate greed is the only thing driving the trucking industry to push reckless legislation that would put heavier and longer trucks on our highways," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "Our members travel the nation's highways every day and know fully the dangers of putting bigger trucks on a highway system already in disrepair. It makes no sense to cause further damage to our highways and bridges when Congress hasn't found a way to fund the much-needed repairs to our crumbling infrastructure." "The claim that fewer trucks will be an end-product of truck size and weight increases simply isn't true," Hoffa said. "This is about safety and ensuring as safe a workplace for our driver members on the highways as anyone working on a factory floor."

Together, all of these groups support the legislation filed Tuesday, May 7, by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ. The bill is known as SHIPA, the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2013. If it passes or gets attached to the next highway bill, SHIPA would extend the current limit of 80,000 pounds on five axles in 53-foot trailers to the entire 220,000-mile National Highway System and not just the current 44,000 miles of interstates. The bill would close a loophole used by states to allow longer, heavier trucks on certain federally funded roadways.

Lautenberg has never minced words when it comes to his feelings about trucks and highway safety. Referring to triple trailer configurations as “killer trucks”, he said SHIPA would do its part to make highways safer. “When super-sized tractor trailers are on the road, they are a threat to drivers and the integrity of our highways and bridges,” he said in a colorful press release. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, is pursuing a counterpart for SHIPA in the U.S. House.

The safety groups convened Tuesday on Capitol Hill to applaud the effort.