Today, Congress put the safety of all motorists before the special interest agenda of a few select trucking and shipping companies. The proposal to force all states to allow double 33-feet trailer trucks, known as “Double 33s,” was not included in the omnibus spending bill.
These monster-size trucks shouldn’t be on the road and they shouldn’t be slipped into an omnibus spending bill. This lethal federal mandate would have meant oversized trucks at least 84 feet long – the length of an eight-story office building – sharing the road next to families. Opposition to this proposal was clear and compelling.
The Senate voted on two separate occasions against overturning state laws to permit Double 33s. Additionally, a large coalition of public health and safety groups, trucking companies, law enforcement, truck drivers, truck crash victims and survivors, rail workers and suppliers, and rail short lines objected. A recent public opinion poll found that an overwhelming 77 percent of the public opposed the measure.
Double 33s would have resulted in a degradation of safety on our roads and highways at a time when fatalities are on the rise. Funding bills are becoming magnets for special interests seeking to add riders that roll back safety laws and regulations that would never pass Congressional oversight and public review.
We applaud the budget negotiators for dropping this provision and thank Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and many other members of Congress and their dedicated staffs for their leadership on this issue. We also commend the budget negotiators for increasing the funding levels for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While we are disappointed that the appropriators did not fully fund NHTSA for the amount set in the authorizing bill, the FAST Act (Pub. L. 114-94), the increase was desperately needed in light of the continuing string of auto industry defects, recalls and cover-ups.
Unfortunately, the bill includes an extension of the “tired truckers” provision enacted in last year’s spending bill. This provision takes away truck drivers “weekends off” and pushes them to work up to 82 hours a week.
Annually 4,000 people are killed and another 100,000 more are injured in crashes involving a large truck, and fatigue is a major factor and well-known crash cause. Crashes such as the one which seriously injured Tracy Morgan and killed James McNair are jarring reminders of why this provision, known as the Collins amendment, should be stopped.
The approaching holiday season should not be an opportunity to reward special interests with goodies and favors that jeopardize safety. Unfortunately, this bill included exemptions from federal safety standards for select special interests.
We urge Congress to stop the tradition of delivering industry handouts wrapped in a big red bow and instead give constituents the gift of safer roads, sound infrastructure, and sensible legislation that doesn’t result in more deaths and costs to families.