Posted by: project151 | July 11, 2008

NC : Bill that allows bigger trucks advances, 53-foot rigs for most part limited to interstates

Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal; Friday, July 11, 2008
HEADLINE: Bill that allows bigger trucks advances, but with safeguards; 53-foot rigs for most part limited to interstates now
Byline: James Romoser

RALEIGH – A bill to allow larger trucks on North Carolina roads moved forward in the state legislature yesterday, but only after safeguards were added to satisfy concerns from Gov. Mike Easley and highway-safety advocates.

The bill would expand the number of roads that are open to 53-foot tractor-trailer rigs, a standard length in the trucking industry. It would also ease size restrictions for other vehicles, including agricultural equipment. After the bill sped through the N.C. Senate, where it passed unanimously, a committee in the N.C. House of Representatives put the brakes on it yesterday.

The committee amended the bill to make it easier for the N.C. Department of Transportation to designate certain roads as off-limits to 53-foot trucks. The committee also deleted the provision allowing larger boats to be towed on state roads.

“I can’t tell you how absolutely thrilled I am,” said Jennifer Tierney, a Kernersville woman who led opposition to the initial bill. “This is a good thing for everyone involved.”

Under current law, 53-foot trucks are allowed only on interstate highways and a few other major roads. The length limit on other roads is 48 feet.

The bill under consideration would open most of the state’s roads to 53-foot trucks, a change that the trucking industry and business advocates say is necessary to promote economic development, especially in rural areas that can’t be accessed via interstate highways.

Once the additional roads are open to longer trucks, transportation officials can still restrict truck size on particular roads that they deem unsafe. But earlier version of the bill made that process arduous. Under the new, amended version, transportation officials would be able to instantly restrict 53-foot trucks on any road they see fit, as long as they notify a legislative committee within six months.

“This makes it where DOT can immediately, at any time, put roads on this list that are not allowed to have the longer trucks,” said state Rep. Trudi Walend, R-Transylvania. “In a way, it makes it very easy for them to keep the trucks off these dangerous roads.”

The Department of Transportation already has a long list of roads that it considers unsafe for 53-foot trucks. Most of the roads in question are winding, narrow, mountain roads in the western part of the state.

Walend’s amendment passed yesterday after a flurry of unexpected negotiations that involved several legislators, an aide to Easley, supporters of the bill, and the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers, which favored the additional safeguards.

In response to Easley’s concerns, the bill was also amended to take out a provision that would have allowed drivers to haul boats up to 10 feet long during the day and night without a permit. Current law allows boats up to 8.5 feet long to be towed without a permit, and towing is not allowed at night, on Sundays or on holidays.

Several other bills are pending in the legislature that seek to loosen restrictions for hauling boats on the road.

The amendment on truck sizes appears to have a good chance of making it into law. The bill’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, supports Walend’s amendment. A spokeswoman for the N.C. Chamber, which advocates on behalf of businesses, said the chamber continues to support the bill.

End.


Associated Press (Washington, DC); Thursday, July 10, 2008
HEADLINE: Lawmakers try again to block Mexican truck program
Byline: Andrew Taylor


WASHINGTON (AP)
— Opponents of a pilot program giving Mexican trucks greater access to U.S. highways won another round Thursday in their battle with the Bush administration.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 20-9 to block the program, which opponents say erodes highway safety and threatens U.S. jobs. The language, however, was attached to a transportation spending bill that’s unlikely to be enacted before the president leaves office in January.

It’s not the first time lawmakers have tried to thwart the program. Last December, Congress cut off funding to implement the program, which permits up to 500 trucks from 100 Mexican motor carriers full access to U.S. roads.

But a Department of Transportation lawyer found a loophole that has allowed the program — established last September — to go ahead. Thursday’s provision makes doubly clear lawmakers’ intent to block the program.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., predicted the administration would lose a lawsuit pending in federal court challenging the Transportation Department’s interpretation that last year’s law — which blocked taxpayer funds from being used to “establish” the program — doesn’t apply to the program since it was established before the law passed.

The amendment adopted Thursday says the government could not in “in any way permit” the program to go ahead.

“The Department of Transportation has already defied the intent of Congress once, and they are not going to get away with it again,” Dorgan said. “With this amendment, this program will finally come to an end.”

Opponents have been fighting the measure — part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement — since it was first proposed, saying the program will erode highway safety and eliminate U.S. jobs. And they say that there are insufficient safeguards to make sure Mexican trucks are as safe as U.S. carriers.

Supporters of the plan say letting more Mexican trucks on U.S. highways will ultimately save American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. And they say U.S. trucking companies will benefit since reciprocal changes in Mexico’s rules permit U.S. trucks new access to that country.

Before, Mexican trucks have had to stop within a buffer border zone and transfer their loads to U.S. trucks.

Still, there’s widespread opposition to the program within Congress. The House voted without a roll call in last July to block the program and the Senate followed with a 3-to-1 vote in September to block it despite administration assurances that safeguards are in place to “ensure a safe and secure program.”

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Responses

  1. […] highway. It’s the exact reason four lane divided highways and interstates were designed. As reported here on this web page numerous time lately, neighboring North Carolina officials have ta… Again for clarity’s sake, P-151 only wants large “cut through” rigs removed from […]


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