Sen. Blumenthal pushes to stop federal measure allowing trucks to haul longer trailers

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WASHINGTON--Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pushing back against a federal mandate that could allow for trucks to pull double trailers.

Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the transportation funding bill requiring states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers on highways. Current federal law permits double 28-foot trailers.

Each year, trucks move nearly 70 percent of all goods in the U.S. That’s 9 billion tons of freight along America’s highways.

On Wednesday, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.,  joined representatives from the trucking industry, Teamsters, law enforcement and a safety advocacy group to denounce a federal mandate that would allow those extra-large trucks.

“Deadly doubles ‎are a dire threat to public safety,” Blumenthal said. “These massive, menacing highway hogs endanger cars and decimate roads. Requiring more road repair and causing crashes, their financial cost justifies a ban – but they also have costs in lives immeasurable in dollars."

Safety advocacy groups argue longer trailers will make the roadways more dangerous.  FOX 61 spoke to one driver who fears what will happen with larger trucks on the road.

"I got hit by a truck one time and I'm scared just seeing them, one almost cut me off coming down here," said  Jane Nowosadko of Norwich.

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation found that trucks with the 33-foot tractors take 22 feet longer to stop.

The two major trucking associations are divided on the issue.

The American Trucking Associations says twin 33-foot trailers would make highways safer because they would eliminate 6.6 million trips made and 6.3 billion miles driven by large trucks.

Mike Reily, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, says many truckers in the state are also divided.

Eleven states currently allow 33-foot trailers. Congress would have to change the law for them to roll nationwide.

Some truckers we spoke with at a truck stop in Branford say bigger isn't necessarily more dangerous.

"I've driven in them all over country and its fine," said John Forrester, a truck driver with G.P. Transportation based in Illinois.

"I don't really see a problem with that, if a driver has enough experience and keeps it safe," said Romen Saphado, a truck driver with Quick Transport out of West Springfield, Massachusetts.

In addition to the 33-foot provisions in federal appropriations bills, other standalone legislation would allow states to increase truck weight limit to 91,000 pounds, up from the current 80,000-pound limit.