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Congress Mulling Whether to Increase the Length of Double-trailers

Statistics from the Federal Highway Administration reveal that as recently as 2012, 20 billion tons of freight traffic valued at close to $18 trillion was transported here in the United States, with commercial trucks handling nearly two thirds-of this incredible volume.

As eye-opening as this is, consider that the FHA is estimating that the amount of freight traffic will jump to 29 billion tons by 2040 with the total value of these goods approaching close to $39 trillion.

In light of these estimates and the seemingly unending growth of Internet commerce, several of the nation’s largest shipping companies — including UPS, FedEx, Con-way — came together in 2014 to form the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking, a lobbying group seeking, among other things, to get Congress to pass a law allowing the expansion of double-trailers.

Specifically, CERT wants to see the transportation regulations currently limiting the length of each trailer in a double-trailer to 28 feet increased to 33 feet.

This move, they argue, would eliminate around 6.6 million truck trips per year, such that the wear and tear on the nation’s already fragile infrastructure would be significantly reduced, while the number of truck accidents caused by traffic congestion each year would also be significantly reduced.

While the group and its supporters were unable to get such this provision included in the most recent version of the highway bill, it has been included in the current transportation spending package approved by the House and currently under consideration in the Senate.

The provision, however, has drawn sharp criticism from vehicle safety advocates who argue that important safety questions about the ramifications of extending the lengths of double-trailers remain unanswered and that it would not result in any fewer trucks on the road or any less accidents, as larger shipping companies would continue to rollout trucks in order to maximize profits.

It remains to be seen what will ultimately come of this hotly debated provision in the transportation spending package. It’s worth noting, however, that the Department of Transportation has strongly encouraged federal lawmakers to await the publication of its study on truck size and weight, scheduled to be completed in the coming months, before making any decision.

What are your thoughts on whether Congress should allow the length of double-trailers to be increased? Do you think it will reduce truck crashes and congestion, or do you think it’s something of a ruse designed to help truck companies increase profits?