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Senate Appropriations Committee Recently Adopted A Provision That Would Allow Twin 33’ Trucks On NYS Roadways & Bridges; Schumer Says New Trucks Are Significantly Longer Than Existing Limits And Pose Serious Dangers To Other Drivers and Passengers; Senate THUD Bill Includes A Provision That Would Preempt New York Law

On Average 4,000 People Die In Truck-Related Accidents Every Year And New Dangerously Long Trucks, With Wider Turning Radiuses And Longer Passing Distances, Would Make Roadways Even More Dangerous 

Schumer: The Emergency Brake Needs To Be Put On This Dangerous Proposal To Increase Truck Length

On conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a major push to block a provision in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill that would permit twin 33-foot trucks on many Upstate New York roadways. Schumer said these trucks are significantly longer than existing limits and pose serious dangers to other drivers and passengers, as well as to truck drivers and infrastructure.

These longer trucks make passing and merging and braking more difficult and pose a greater risk at intersections for cars because these new trucks have a 6-foot wider turning radius and a 20-foot longer stopping distance. A study by the Multimodal Transportation and Infrastructure Consortium found that multi-trailer trucks have a 15.5% higher fatal crash rate than single-trailer trucks. Allowing these longer trucks on the road would place a greater strain on existing infrastructure unsuited for heavier trucks and lead to a greater risk of auto accidents.

Schumer also said that, despite the fact that New York has a ban on these types of trucks on most roadways, the language in the Senate THUD bill includes a provision that would preempt New York law. Therefore, Schumer has vowed to fight such a provision from passing in the Senate THUD bill as it comes to the floor for a full vote.

“It’s time the pull the emergency brake on this dangerous provision allowing trucks the size of an 8-story building on our roads. The fact of the matter is, these longer, double-hitched tractor-trailers are a tremendous road safety risk to people and infrastructure alike: they take longer to stop, they have wider turning radiuses, and they place a greater strain on our roads and bridges which are already in need of repair,” said Senator Schumer. “The marginal increase in shipping efficiency does not outweigh the tremendous safety risks of these larger trucks on our roadways, and I will be doing everything in my power to fight this provision from ever becoming law.”

“These oversized, extra-long trucks are equivalent to the size of an 8-story office building on wheels.  Studies show that double trailer trucks have a higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks, take motorists longer to pass, and are more difficult to maneuver. Senator Schumer is standing up for the safety of families by opposing backdoor maneuvers in Congress to enact this assault on road safety. Advocates is proud to stand with Sen. Schumer and say ‘No’ to bigger trucks, bigger safety problems and bigger damage to our roads and bridges,” said Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  

“Safety on our Nation’s roadways is a top priority and efforts to allow new longer, more dangerous trucks should be rejected. We applaud Senator Schumer for opposing the provision to allow twin 33-foot trailers, which threatens our members and the motoring public. We will continue working with him to prevent this alarming proposal from becoming law,” said Sergeant Andrew Matthews, Chairman of the National Troopers Coalition, which represents over 40,000 State Troopers in 38 states, including New York.

“The Trucking Alliance opposes efforts to force states to allow double 33’ trailers on U.S. highways. These longer trucks would have negative impact on highway safety, accelerate wear and tear on the nation’s highway system, and make it very difficult for small and medium sized trucking companies, which are the heart of our industry, to compete,” said Lane Kidd, Managing Director of the Trucking Alliance, a group that represents some of the Country’s leading trucking companies.

Schumer said a provision included in the Senate THUD Appropriations bill could pose a serious risk to drivers across New York and nationwide by allowing one truck with two 33-foot tractor trailers to travel on New York State roadways on the National Highway System. The current limit on the National Highway System is double 28-foot trailers, meaning this truck would be 10 feet longer than what is allowed on major roadways. However, these twin 33-foot trucks would also likely replace the single 54-foot trailers, in which case these trucks would actually be 17 feet longer. Schumer explained that this significant increase and the sheer length of these trailers make them a serious safety hazard.

According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, truck crash fatalities have gone up by 17% and injuries by 28% nationwide over the last four years. Because the number of accidents involving large trucks is already high, Schumer said even larger trucks could make New York State roadways even less safe if this provision is passed. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), across all of New York State, there were a total of 620 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2014, including 357 across Upstate New York alone. In addition, between 2013 and 2014, there were a total of 8,130 non-fatal crashes involving large trucks in New York State, including 6,779 in Upstate New York alone.

Studies have found that multi-trailer trucks have a significantly higher fatal crash rate than single-trailer trucks. In particular, these 84-foot trucks have large blind spots that put other motorists in danger if the truck driver does not see them. In addition, the dual-trailer length poses an increased risk at intersections, because these trucks require a much wider turning radius – 6 feet longer. These “twin 33s” require a much larger stopping distance as well, approximately 20 feet, 10% longer than the double 28-foot trailers. Finally, the extended length also makes merging and passing very difficult for both the driver and other motorists on the road.

In addition to these major safety concerns, Schumer explained that, despite the fact that New York has a ban on these large trucks traveling on most roadways, the Senate THUD bill’s provision is written in a way that would supersede New York State law. In fact, this provision would preempt the existing law in 39 states which have set a limit on maximum truck length. Currently, larger trucks can only drive on the NYS Thruway; this provision would force New York to allow these 84-foot trailers on all roads on the National Highway System, including roads like Routes 219 in the Southern Tier and 17 in the Hudson Valley, in addition to ones like Routes 5 and 20 in the Finger Lakes region and Central New York. Schumer said the urbanized areas throughout Upstate New York that these trucks would be allowed to drive on include: Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Glens Falls, Ithaca, Kingston, Middletown, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Utica and Watertown. A detailed map that depicts the National Highway System routes these tractor trailers would be able to traverse can be located by clicking here:

Finally, these large trucks would likely place a greater strain on existing infrastructure unsuited to withstand heavier trucks on roadways. In fact, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has indicated there are many bridges and roadways that would be unable to handle such heavy weights, even on major highways. The USDOT estimates that this amendment would cause between 1.8% and 2.7% increase in pavement maintenance costs and more than 2,500 bridges would require strengthening or replacement as a result of this amendment, potentially costing more than $1 billion.

Therefore, Schumer said he will fight to strip this amendment from the THUD bill when it reaches the Senate floor. Schumer argued that a failure to remove this provision would put drivers in harm’s way, create a strain on New York State roads and potentially cause more serious accidents. Schumer said the marginal increase in shipping efficiency does not outweigh the tremendous safety risks of these larger trucks, and he will be urging his colleagues from both sides of the aisle to join together to oppose it.

During the call, Schumer also provided the number of fatal motor vehicle crashes, as well as non-fatal crashes – including injuries and tow-away accidents – involving large trucks by region:

  • In the Capital Region, there were 61 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 994non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In Central New York, there were 50 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 883non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In Western New York, there were 60 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 943non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, there were 52 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 920 non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In the Southern Tier, there were 41 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 665non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In the Hudson Valley, there were 67 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 1,942non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In the North Country, there were 26 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 432non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.