“Christmas came early for the trucking industry,” said Representative Nita Lowey of New York in reference to a $55.3 billion transportation spending bill that would allow bigger trucks, eliminate requirements for increased insurance coverage for trucking companies, and make truck driver rest regulations harder to impose.
Longer Combinations To Meet Increased Demand
The trucking industry is using its considerable lobbying power to put longer combinations on the road, in part to meet the rising demands of online shoppers. The bill would allow two trailers up to 33 feet to be hauled in tandem, which is up from the 28-foot limit now imposed. Online shopping freight is expected to increase by 40% over the next ten years, meaning that an industry struggling to hire enough drivers will face increasing demand.
Experts Fear More Crashes With Longer Trailers
But safety groups say that longer trucks are harder for drivers to control and harder to stop. President of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Jackie Gillan strongly opposes the bill, telling Congress, “you sign this bill, you’re signing a death warrant for American families.” She also cited statistics that double trailer combinations have a 15% higher crash rate than single trailer trucks.
A study commissioned by FedEx suggests that bigger trucks would not only help to meet increasing demand, they would also cause less environmental damage and reduce the number of trucks on the road, which they say would make highways safer for everyone.
The bill’s opponents also decry the fact that the trucking industry, which spent almost $10 million last year lobbying Congress, was able to insert the regulatory changes into unrelated legislation.