Americans for Modern Transportation makes renewed case for increasing twin-trailer size to 33 feet

In advance of today’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s (T&I) first full committee hearing of the 116th Congress, which is addressing the current state of United States transportation infrastructure, the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT) wrote a letter to the committee’s leadership calling for Congress to increase the national twin-trailer standard as a “common sense” approach to augment the current state of U.S. infrastructure, which remains mired in a long period of decline.

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In advance of today’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s (T&I) first full committee hearing of the 116th Congress, which is addressing the current state of United States transportation infrastructure, the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT) wrote a letter to the committee’s leadership calling for Congress to increase the national twin-trailer standard as a “common sense” approach to augment the current state of U.S. infrastructure, which remains mired in a long period of decline.

In the letter, which was written by AMT Executive Director Randy Mullett, to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), House Committee on T&I Chairman, and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.). House Committee on T&I Ranking Member, Mullett highlighted how a combination of years of underinvestment and a lack of attention to the nation’s infrastructure has put American families in harm, spurred economic inefficiencies, and also put undue stress on the environment.  

“We need to do more than maintain our existing roads, bridges, and waterways,” he wrote. “To fully deliver long-term results, our policymakers must examine ways to leverage technologies and inefficiencies developed by the private sector and work toward laying the infrastructure of the future.”

One way to go about helping to fix the state of U.S. infrastructure, explained Mullett, is to implement what he called a “modest” five-foot increase to twin 28-foot trailers to 33 feet, which would bring immediate and meaningful infrastructure improvements, including:

  • reduced congestion in the form of fewer trucks on the road and 53.2 million hours saved due to less congestion;
  • improved safety benefits, with twin 33-foot trailers outperforming other truck configurations like stability and roll over, adding that the addition of twin 33-foot trailers would see a net gain of 4,500 fewer truck accidents on an annual basis;
  • economic benefits from twin-33’s moving the same amount of freight with 18% fewer trips, which enables consumers and businesses to realize $2.6 billion annually in lower shipping costs and quicker delivery times; and
  • environmental gains that would be the equivalent of 255 million fewer gallons of fuel and 2.9 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions

AMT’s case for increasing the national twin trailer standard from 28 feet to 33 feet is far from new.

In a May 2018 letter to the House Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations subcommittee, it stressed that the need for twin-33s is “urgent,” as: the U.S. population has nearly doubled in the past 50 years; there are 75 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1960, e-commerce sales are up from $42 billion in 2002 to $291.8 billion in 2016; and the USDOT estimates that freight volumes will rise 45% by 2045.

“Trying to get twin-33’s approved has been part of a years-long process of trying to help the trucking industry, which has experienced so many burdens of costs as a result of regulation get a little bit of help from the federal government in the form of productivity gains,” said John Cutler, former general counsel for NASSTRAC, in a 2018 interview.

A report issued last year by freight transportation consultancy FTR observed that twin 33s are not a “generic option” for truckload carriers in that its usage by truckload carriers would be very limited, save for some small niches such as moving things like caskets or insulation. Instead, FTR’s analysis, as expected, noted that LTL and parcel carriers would be what it called the “prime users” of Twin 33s, adding that load conversion would be around 1-2%.

As for other drivers, FTR said that while the cube advantage of twin 33s over 53-foot trailers is minor, an impetus for carriers looking to use twin 33s is to “avoid the re-sorting required to consolidate many customers shipments as the freight moves across the hub and spoke terminal networks.”  

Other key findings, or benefits, of shifting to twin 33s cited by FTR included: definite cost savings – as much as 10%; a significant reduction in trucks on the road (up to 18% fewer trucking rigs in the affected segment) would lead to lower emissions, less highway wear, and less congestion; and the proposed change would affect only a small segment of the trucking market. It would largely affect current LTL and Parcel operators who support the change and are already running double trailer operations

A longstanding chief opponent of increasing twin-trailer length has been the Association of American Railroads, whom has squelched past attempts by the trucking sector to push through legislation calling for twin-33s.

AAR has repeatedly stated that Congress already maintains “reasonable limits” on interstate highway system truck sizes at 80,000 pounds and no more than two 28-foot trailers for total length. And it had often cited a 2016 USDOT study, which addressed the impact of increasing current truck size, and weight limits, making the determination that there is not a need for federal policy changes on truck size and weights.

“These limits make good sense,” AAR said. “The fuel taxes and other highway-related fees that commercial trucks pay fall far short of covering the costs of the highway damage they cause. Any federal program that increases federal truck size limits will further subsidize commercial highway users at the expense of taxpayers, exacerbate deterioration of crumbling infrastructure and disadvantage a critical freight rail industry. Now proponents are pursuing avenues at the state and federal level to increase federal limits on truck weights from 80,000 pounds to at least 91,000 pounds — a jump of almost 14% in truck weight – while also pushing for Congress to force states to allow double-trailer Twin 33 trucks. Both would lead to more truck freight, which would further stress the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges. At a time when policymakers continue to call for investment into and improvement of the nation’s infrastructure, knowingly taking steps to further damage the nation’s federal highway system is misguided policy.”

AAR has also noted that the added truck weight will further destroy precious national infrastructure and cost taxpayers dearly and allowing trucks to be 14% heavier would be a fundamental change to national policy.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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