Safety watchdogs say so-called “less-than-truckload” companies such as FedEx, United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS), Con-way and YRC Worldwide Inc., among others, are trying to add dangerous trucking provisions to a federal Transportation Department appropriations bill. By attaching the companies’ provisions, which safety advocates say allow for dangerous policy changes and block existing or proposed safety measures, to the must-pass bill, the industry effectively avoids congressional review.
Among the proposals included in the bill is a provision that would allow two trailers of up to 33 feet to be hauled in tandem. Current regulations limit tandem trailers to 28 feet. Jackie Gillan, president for Advocates for Highway Safety, calls the measure the most aggressive attack on safety she has seen in her lifetime. She cites statistics indicating double-trailer combinations have crash rates 15 percent higher than single-trailer rigs, and says that the longer, heavier trucks are harder for drivers to handle and take longer to stop.
The trucking industry is a formidable force in Washington. This industry spent $9.85 million lobbying Congress last year, and makes $7.96 million in contributions to political candidates, parties and action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. FedEx, whose CEO Fred Smith has lobbied lawmakers on the issue, made $2.32 million in campaign contributions to House and Senate members in the two-year cycle ending in the 2014 election, according to the center.
The trucking industry is advocating for longer combinations to meet demand, especially for lighter packages like those delivered for online shoppers, according to the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking. A study commissioned by FedEx, Con-way Inc. and other shippers showed that the extra five feet in length of each trailer would save gas and cut carbon emissions and would actually reduce the number of trucks on the road, while insisting there is no safety issue. Crashes involving large trucks killed 3,921 people in the U.S. in 2012, an increase of 16 percent from the all-time low in 2009. Trucking deaths have increased in each of the past four years.
The appropriations bill was approved by a subcommittee on April 29. We expect the full committee to take a vote when Congress returns from a recess. The House bill still would have to survive a Senate vote and be signed by the president. In addition to the bigger-capacity trucks, the bill would also do away with plans to require trucking companies to carry higher insurance coverage and make it harder for regulators to re-impose more stringent rest requirements for drivers.
Source: Claims Journal
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