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Senate Committee Approves of Change in Law to Allow Twin 33’ Trailers on National Roadways

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The United States Senate committee charged with funding the Department of Transportation recently passed an appropriations bill which would make some significant changes to national laws governing large trucks and tractor-trailers. Whether or not the changes would ultimately lead to an increased number of accidents involving semis and tractor-trailers, or greater safety on the roads, has been hotly debated. The appropriations bill passed only narrowly and, if ultimately passed by the full US Senate and signed by President Obama, will go into effect in October.

The component of the bill stirring the most controversy is an amendment that will allow “twin 33’s” on all highways that are part of the National Highway System. The term “twin 33’s” indicates a tractor that is pulling two 33 foot trailers behind it. This makes the truck 85 feet long in total—the equivalent of an 8 story building in length. The current standard length for trailers used in a twin configuration is 28 feet. The Department of Transportation estimates that, when comparing trucks hauling twin 33 foot trailers and those hauling twin 28 foot trailers, the twin 33’s require an additional 22 feet to come to a complete stop. The trucks are a full 17 feet longer than a standard tractor-trailer hauling only a single trailer.

Currently, 39 states have laws that would ban the twin 33’s from their roadways. Under the approved appropriations bill, the federal regulation allowing the trucks will supersede such state laws. States will need to apply with the US Department of Transportation for an exemption for particular sections of roadway the states have deemed would be too unsafe for a truck that large. While advocates of the rule change argue that allowing larger trucks will reduce the total number of trucks that are on the road, thus reducing the odds of accidents involving large trucks, opponents point to the massive size, increased toll on aging infrastructure, and as-yet unstudied safety records of the larger trucks.

Bill cracks down on trucking companies falsifying records and logs

Additionally included in the appropriations bill are requirements that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration complete and publish a rule on electronic logging devices and speed limiters within 60 days of the date that the bill would take effect, which would be October 1. Requiring electronic logging devices, in lieu of the paper logs currently permitted, would make it more difficult for individual drivers to falsify driving logs, and thus require them to adhere to federal rules limiting the number of hours in a day and week that drivers can be on the road. Speed limiters, already installed in many large trucks and semis, would keep trucks from traveling at dangerously fast speeds.

Tractor-trailers and semi trucks were involved in accidents resulting in 4,000 fatalities in 2013, with 72% of those deaths coming from the occupants of other vehicles hit by the trucks. If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, contact an attorney who understands the complexities and challenges of large truck accidents and lawsuits. For a consultation on your Virginia truck accident claim, call the Charlottesville law firm of Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz at 434-977-7977.

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