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Lautenberg re-introduces bill to keep bigger, heavier trucks off the road

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s bill, the “Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2013” (SHIPA), would apply the current limits of 80,000 pounds and maximum length of 53 feet for tractor-trailers to the entire NHS, while still allowing certain exemptions, including firefighting equipment.

The Trucker News Services

5/7/2013

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., Tuesday 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).

Currently these restrictions apply only to interstate highways.

Applying the size and weight limits more broadly would improve safety and prevent excessive strain on the nation’s roads, tunnels and bridges, Lautenberg said. 

Lautenberg’s bill, the “Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2013” (SHIPA), would apply the current limits of 80,000 pounds and maximum length of 53 feet for tractor-trailers to the entire NHS, while still allowing certain exemptions, including firefighting equipment.  The NHS includes both interstate highways and smaller national highways.

Most truck size and weight restrictions already apply to the 44,000-mile Interstate Highway System.  The bill would extend certain restrictions to the much bigger 220,000-mile 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.

An official of the Maine Motor Transportation Association immediately took issue with the bill.

Maine is one of several New England states that allow trucks weighing up to 100,000 on highways other than interstates, largely because of the state’s logging industry.

“Senator Lautenberg's consistent hyperbole doesn't match up with Maine's experience,” Brian Parke, MMTA president and CEO, said. “The use of more productive vehicle configurations has been proven to be much safer with a much lighter footprint on our infrastructure when ton-miles are included in the calculation.”

Lautenberg said he believes when super-sized tractor-trailers are on the road, they are a threat to drivers and the integrity of the nation’s highways and bridges.

“Closing the loophole that keeps these long, overweight trucks on our National Highway System will protect families and preserve our nation’s infrastructure,” the senator said.  “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 Association (OOIDA), Parents Against Tired Truckers, and the Truck Safety Coalition.

“Truck crash victims and survivors and the safety community laud Senator 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, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (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.  Senator 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.”

 The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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