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House highway bill will improve safety, infrastructure: ATA

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is praising a surface transportation bill crafted by the US House of Representatives, "that will not only make needed improvements to our nation's highway system, but will also make...

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is praising a surface transportation bill crafted by the US House of Representatives, “that will not only make needed improvements to our nation’s highway system, but will also make that system safer for trucks and cars,” according to ATA officials.

“This bill is a major step forward, not just for trucking, but for all users of our transportation system,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves. “From reforming how projects are delivered and refocusing the federal highway program on issues of national interest, like freight movement, Chairman Mica (of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) has laid the groundwork for significant improvements in how Americans travel.

“Furthermore, we are pleased that the bill includes a number of safety provisions, ranging from the creation of a drug and alcohol testing clearinghouse, stricter driver training requirements and takes steps to toward establishing the first-ever crashworthiness standards for large trucks, that ATA has consistently championed,” Graves said.

ATA also praised the legislation for addressing truck productivity and Hours-of-Service.

“We’re pleased that for the first time in 30 years, despite unfounded, yet curiously well-funded, attacks on the safety of our industry the House appears set to make much-needed reforms to federal truck size-and-weight reforms,” said ATA chairman Dan England. “Allowing states to choose to open their interstate highways to more productive trucks is an important step to reducing costs to American consumers and reducing congestion on our highways.

“We’re also thankful this bill directs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to initiate a field study of its proposed Hours-of-Service changes, specifically the impacts of the proposed modifications to the 34-hour restart provision,” England said. “The researchers whose work was used to justify these changes said a field study was needed to understand the safety, cost and operational implications of such a change, and we agree wholeheartedly.”

However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is speaking out against a provision in the proposed highway bill that would increase truck size and weight limits. OOIDA reps say the provision – which proposes raising truck weight limits from 80,000 lbs to at least 97,000 lbs and increasing the use of longer-combination vehicles (LCVs) – would not only compromise highway safety and infrastructure, but also lead to significant new cost increases for small-business truckers.

“Truck drivers know firsthand that heavier and longer trucks are much harder to manoeuvre and put additional stress on our already deteriorating highways and bridges,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice-president.

OOIDA contends that in many situations the proposed change in law will require a small-business trucker to spend up to $100,000 on new equipment. 

“When choosing between a trucker bringing home $40,000 a year on average and a bailout for multibillion- dollar corporations, I hope Congress will make the right decision and side with small-business truckers,” added Spencer.

OOIDA reps say the potential impact of longer and heavier trucks will also include an increase in traffic congestion, higher tax and tolls for all motorists, increased burdens for state and local governments, and focus being taken away from new job creation and highway improvements.

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