U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) re-introduced legislation designed to keep bigger, heavier trucks off the road. The bill would apply existing federal truck size and weight limits to the entire National Highway System (NHS) and will also ban the use of triple trailer rigs on the entire NHS.
Lautenberg’s bill, the “Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2013” (SHIPA), would apply the current limits of 80,000 lbs. and maximum length of 53 ft. for tractor-trailer trucks to the entire NHS, while still allowing certain exemptions, including for firefighting equipment.
The NHS includes both interstate highways and smaller national highways. Most truck size and weight restrictions already apply to the 44,000-mi. Interstate Highway System. The bill would extend certain restrictions to the much bigger 220,000-mi. NHS. The bill will also expand the current freeze of triple-tractor trailer operations on interstates to apply to the broader NHS. In addition, the bill would close loopholes that allow the operation of overweight trucks and would establish an enforcement program to ensure accountability.
“When super-sized tractor-trailers are on the road, they are a threat to drivers and the integrity of our highways and bridges,” Lautenberg said. “Closing the loophole that keeps these long, overweight trucks on our National Highway System will protect families and preserve our nation’s infrastructure. 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. This is thoughtful, common-sense legislation that would maintain our highways, grow our economy, and ensure safe roads for commuters and families.”
The bill is supported by Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Trauma Foundation, KidsAndCars.org, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Consumer Federation of America, AAA, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), Parents Against Tired Truckers, and the Truck Safety Coalition.
“Truck crash victims and survivors and the safety community laud Sen. Lautenberg’s steadfast leadership to protect motorists and truck drivers on our highways,” said Joan Claybrook, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and chair of CRASH. “The Senator’s introduction of the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, which will freeze current truck size and weight limits, will lead toward saving countless lives and preventing lifelong debilitating injuries for many. Sen. Lautenberg continues to ‘fight the good fight’ to improve our nation’s truck safety policies, and the American public will be spared from paying with their lives and their wallets because of his efforts.”
Bigger trucks — both those that are heavier and longer than standard trucks — present safety risks, including longer stopping distances, increased risks of rollover and of trailers swaying into adjacent lanes, Lautenberg said in a press release. “Research shows that a 100,000-lb. truck with unadjusted brakes travels 25% further after the driver steps on the brakes than an 80,000-lb. truck. Large trucks account for a disproportionately high share of deaths based on miles traveled compared to standard vehicle traffic.”
Lautenberg also wrote the law that banned triple-trailers (which he refers to as “killer trucks”) in New Jersey and on most other states’ roads.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Companion legislation is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).