ATA Criticizes Highway Reform Bill

| April 07, 2005

A bill in Congress that would expand federal oversight on the nation’s highways is drawing fire from the American Trucking Associations and support from other groups.

U.S. Rep. James McGovern introduced the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, which would give the federal government jurisdiction over trailer length and truck weights throughout the National Highway System. The bill would standardize trailer length and weight and limit the use of triples and doubles. Currently states maintain that authority, and many states allow trailer lengths in excess of 53 feet. The bill was introduced before but died in Congress.

ATA is fighting the bill for two reasons: it cites unnecessary federal regulation and accuses the railroad industry of trying to mandate more freight for its industry. The bill is backed by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, an organization of railroad and obscure safety and enforcement groups.

ATA calls CABT a “front group” for the railroads. “SHIPA is a railroad-backed effort to legislate a greater share of the freight transportation market for the railroad industry,” said Bill Graves, ATA president.

But not everyone supporting the bill is pro-railroad. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has said it supports uniform size and weights on the nation’s highways. The American Automobile Association called it a reasonable way to preserve roads at a congressional field hearing in March. Several California city councils and at least one Oklahoma city council have passed measures this year in support of the legislation.

The ATA argues that heavier and longer trucks aren’t inherently less safe and sees no need to make a major adjustment when the number of fatal accidents involving big rigs are falling.

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