Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hoffa says highway safety more important than higher profits

Hoffa talks about the danger of 'twin 33s' at Hill press conference.
Longer double-trailers on the nation's roadway would jeopardize the safety of truck drivers and motorists, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa and a bipartisan collection of lawmakers and truck safety advocates said during a Capitol Hill press conference this morning.

Allowing trucks to pull 33-foot trailers would add an additional 10 feet to the length of existing double trailers, making it harder to pass these trucks and harder for truck drivers to see who’s beside them. Longer trucks also need greater stopping distances, and already over-capacity thoroughfares leave little room for driver reaction times when it comes to changing lanes and reduced speeds.While some on Capitol Hill support the move, the Department of Transportation is recommending lawmakers make no changes to truck size rules at this time.

Hoffa told lawmakers they need to be vigilant to make sure language is not slipped into larger "must pass" legislation that Congress then feels obliged to support. Pointing to a tractor-trailer with twin 33-foot trailers behind him, he said:
Can you imagine pulling that rig on an off-ramp built 30 years ago? It's not designed for that. Drivers tell me how dangerous this is. It's a safety issue. It's an infrastructure issue.
Several legislators issue similar concerns. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said highway safety is at stake if trailer size is expanded nationwide:
Mr. Hoffa hit this issue right on the head. This issue can never make it in the light of day. It can only be added in massive legislation like the transportation bill.
Representatives from the trucking industry also spoke about the dangers to truck drivers resulting from operating with twin 33-foot trailers, and said double trailers take a lot more time to load and unload because of the repeated coupling and uncoupling of trailers.

More than 4,000 lives are claimed each year on U.S. highways in accidents involving tractor trailers. And that will almost certainly increase if the 39 states that currently don’t allow “twin 33s” on their roads are forced by Congress to open their highways to these up to 91-foot behemoths. Currently, the federal standard is 28 feet for double trailers.

The debate over trailer length comes at the same time as elected officials grapple with a host of transportation-related issues, many of which could affect motorist safety. They include allowing teenage truckers to drive in interstate commerce; trying to dismantle the ability of states to create meal and rest breaks for their drivers; and making it harder for regulators to improve safety rules. Several of these issues could be included in legislation set to be considered by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday.