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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sen. Lautenberg reintroduces anti-bigger trucks bill

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) yesterday re-introduced legislation aimed at preventing bigger and heavier trucks from traveling on federal highways.

The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2013 (SHIPA) would apply the current tractor-trailer truck weight limit of 80,000 pounds and length limit of 53 feet to the entire national highway system (both interstates and smaller highways), and maintain certain exemptions, such as for firefighting equipment.

Although most truck size and weight restrictions already apply to the 44,000-mile interstate system, the bill would extend certain restrictions to the much larger 220,000-mile national highway system, Lautenberg said in a press release. The legislation also would expand the current freeze of triple-tractor trailer operations on interstates to apply to the broader national system, close loopholes that allow the operation of overweight trucks and establish an enforcement program to ensure accountability.

Bigger and heavier trucks pose safety risks, including longer stopping distances and increased risks of rollover or trailer swaying, said Lautenberg, adding that large trucks account for a disproportionately high share of deaths based on miles traveled compared with standard vehicle traffic.

"When super-sized tractor-trailers are on the road, they are a threat to drivers and the integrity of our highways and bridges," said Lautenberg. "Trucks play a critical role in our nation's economy, but they also share the roads with our families, so we must do everything we can to make our nation's highways safer and prevent tragic accidents."

SHIPA is co-sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

SHIPA is supported by Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Trauma Foundation, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Consumer Federation of America, AAA, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Truck Safety Coalition. In addition, the Association of American Railroads and Coalition Against Bigger Trucks long have opposed any legislation that seeks to increase truck sizes and weights.

Teamsters members are concerned about the impacts of bigger trucks on a highway system that's already in disrepair, said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa in a prepared statement.

"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," he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/8/2013