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Schumer: Senate Puts the Brakes on Tractor Trailer Provision That Otherwise Would've Allowed Long & Dangerous 84-Ft Trucks on LIE & Other LI Roadways

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  20. November 2015

Washington, DC - November 19, 2015 - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer today announced, after his push, the Senate has struck a provision in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations bill that would have permitted twin 33-foot trucks on the Long Island Expressway and across other major New York State roadways. Schumer said this provision would have preempted New York State law; roughly 80 fatal accidents have involved large trucks across Long Island, a number the Senator says would only rise if these new trucks were allowed on the road. Schumer successfully fought the provision, and today it was struck from the Senate T-HUD bill.

“It’s good news for all of Long Island and all of New York that the Senate has pulled 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 am pleased that my colleagues have helped me in striking this provision from the appropriations bill.” 

The provision would have allowed trucks 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 would 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 and so, it is good news that this provision was struck.

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 78 on Long Island. In addition, between 2013 and 2014, there were a total of 8,130 non-fatal crashes involving large trucks in New York State, including 1,194 on Long Island 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 have superseded New York State law. In fact, this provision would have preempted the existing law in 39 states which have set a limit on maximum truck length. Currently, larger trucks can only drive on federal interstates, including the Long Island Expressway. The provision would have forced New York to allow larger, 84-foot trailers on all roads within the National Highway System. 

Finally, these large trucks would have likely placed 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.

Schumer today announced that he has successfully fought to strike this provision from the T-HUD bill.

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 Nassau County, there were 30 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 805 non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.
  • In Suffolk County, there were 48 fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2009-2013, and 389 non-fatal crashes from 2013-2014.

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