gested highways, such as those east of the Mississippi River, this would significantly
reduce both the infrastructure costs and potential laenefits from LCVs. The most fa-
vorable cost-benefit ratios could be achieved through selective designation of suit-
able routes, taking account of traffic density, the capacity of bridges, the adequacy
of interchanges, and the need for staging areas. To tne extent that additional infra-
structure costs are identified, states must decide how to recover them.
Triple-trailer combinations would show the most obvious economic benefit under
selective route expansion because (1) they can be accommodated more easily by the
existing infrastructure, (2) they can often operate out of company terminals with few
new staging areas, and (3) less-than-truckload and package companies could expand
the use of triples incrementally if additional states authorized them. Specific, lim-
ited uses can be found for turnpike doubles in a fragmented network, but substan-
tial use of these combinations would require a national network of highways open
to them, even with such a network, it is questionable whether these long doubles
would be a viable alternative to the current trends in the truckload industry, which
involve using longer single trailers and intermodal rail service.
This concludes my prepared statement. We will be pleased to answer any ques-
APPENDIX I â€” CTATUS OF GAO RECOMMENDATIONS
Truck Safety: The Safety of Longer Combination Vehicles is Unknown (GAO/
RCED-92-66, Mar. 11, 1992).
Recommendation: To improve transportation data and to help determine LCV
safety, the Secretary of Transportation should improve truck accident data, es-
pecially as they relate to the reporting of nonfatal accidents, the estimates of
truck travel, and the identification of truck configurations.
Status: FHWA is providing grants under the Intermodal Surface Transportation
Efficiency Act of 1991 to states to adopt the uniform accident reporting form
and data elements recommended by the National Governors' Association which
also require reporting data on truck configurations. At least 23 states have
adopted the form and data elements. FHWA plans to continue its efTorts to get
the remaining states to adopt these reporting practices. FHWA estimates it will
take about 2 years for this effort to be accomplished.
Longer Combination Trucks: Driver Controls and Equipment Inspection Should
Be Improved (GAO/RCED-94-21, Nov. 23, 1993).
Recommendation: To provide better and more complete information on the safe-
ty of LCVs, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of
FHWA to further investigate the safety of LCV operations through the targeting
of LCVs for inspections or through special studies, such as the ongoing FHWA
study of Lev accident rates, and encourage states to use inspection data to
monitor the adequacy of companies' maintenance.
Status: In January 1994, FHWA awarded a contract for a special study to deter-
mine the accident rates of 100 motor carries using LCVs. The contract is ex-
pected to be completed in December 1995.
Recommendation: To provide better and more complete information on the safe-
ty of LCVs, the Secretaiy of Transportation should direct the Administrator of
FHWA to include in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations requirements
concerning the driving experience and the past safety records of drivers as-
signed to LCVs to help ensure that drivers are adequately qualified to operate
Status: FHWA has considered including LCV driver experience requirements in
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and plans to publish in October
1994 a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which establishes minimum training
standards for LCV drivers.
Senator EXON. Let me make some brief comments now on this
hearing which I have withheld in order to move things along.
Certainly, this is a very, very serious matter we are considering
today. The safety implications of these longer trucks are a concern
to many of us. As the chairman of the subcommittee, my first prior-
ity has always been safety, and I think the record clearly dem-
During consideration of the Intermodal Safety Transportation Ef-
ficiency Act, also known as ISTEA, which has been referenced here
today, I offered successful legislation to freeze the length of long-
combination vehicles â€” LCVs.
After consulting with safety experts, I was concerned that LVC's
could pose serious safety problems, especially in crowded interstate
corridors. The driving public also overwhelmingly agreed.
I believe that the LCV freeze has worked well. This hearing will
consider the recently completed report by the U.S. Greneral Ac-
counting Office on the safety and efficiency of LVC's, as well as
proposals which would affect the length of single trailers, which, I
think most would agree, is also something which should be ad-
Over the years, there has been a trend in some States toward
longer and heavier trucks and trailers. The standard 53-foot truck
length is being stretched to nearly 60 feet in some States.
In my view, this trend poses serious questions about the safety
of these vehicles, how they mix with increasingly smaller and light-
er passenger vehicles, as well as the effect of longer and heavier
trucks and what effect they have on the Nation's highway infra-
structure. In addition, the private sector has built a very efficient
intermodal network, based on certain standardized trailer and con-
tainer lengths. Will that investment be made obsolete by a rush to
longer and heavier trailers?
I certainly welcome all of the testimony we are hearing today, as
we seek answers to these and other questions that will be posed.
As I have said earlier, all written testimony will be included with-
out objection as a part of the record.
I appreciate the brevity of the statements by the first two wit-
nesses on panel 1, and I will have a few questions. At this time,
I am very pleased to recognize the ranking minority member of the
committee. Senator Hutchison from the State of Texas, who has
been involved very much in all of these matters for a long, long
I am pleased to recognize you, Mrs. Hutchison, for any opening
statement or questions you might have.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR HUTCfflSON
Senator Hutchison. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very
I want to commend the chairman for calHng this hearing, be-
cause, especially from my vantage in Texas, I have been concerned
about the differentials between the trucks that are going to be com-
ing in from Mexico under NAFTA.
With 75 percent of the traffic from Mexico coming through my
State, it is important to me that we have some standards and that
the standards be, perhaps not equal, but within a range.
And I hope that as we go down the line, talking about the dif-
ferentials between the smaller trucks and the increasingly larger
trucks on the highways, that we can look at NAFTA and its im-
Obviously, Canada has higher standards than we do; Mexico
even higher. By that, I do not mean higher safety standards, but
higher weight standards.
So, I think that we need to look at this issue and determine what
is the right balance here. I think that it is very timely and appro-
priate that you are addressing this issue.
I do have a long history of highway involvement, having been a
member of the National Transportation Safety Board. Also, as a
member of the Texas legislature, I cosponsored the bill to reorga-
nize the Texas Highway Department, so that it would be organized
in a way that would be more efficient.
So, I am very interested. I am interested in truck safety and
highway safety, and I am hoping that we can come to some terms
that will be right for the truckers and efficient for the truckers, but
also safe for passengers in our highway system.
So, thank you very much. I am looking forward to hearing what
you say. I do have to make a speech on the floor, so if I step out,
it is not for a lack of interest, but because there is a limited debate
time, and I am committed to making a speech.
So, thank you. I will read the testimony, if I do not hear it, and
I will work with the chairman to do something that will bring a
balance of efficiency for our truckers and safety for our passengers.
Senator ExoN. Senator, thank you very much, and we appreciate
your coming by. As I said, it is a very busy time for all of us here,
especially with what is going on on the floor today.
I assume that you may have some additional questions for the
record, among others, and I would certainly advise this panel and
those which follow that we need the replies as quickly as possible
for inclusion in the record. I am going to limit the questions I have
for the hearing this morning and will have some additional ques-
tions to ask of you for the record.
Let me start out with you, Mr. Mead. Certainly, you and your
organization have done an exemplary job over the years in a whole
series of areas. I was particularly impressed with your early com-
ments about the close working relationship you had with the De-
partment of Transportation on this extremely important matter. It
bodes well for us to get the information we need to make the right
Do you or your study conclusions apply to non-LCV vehicles?
Mr. Mead. That is a difficult question. Technically, no. Tech-
nically, all of our recommendations were directed toward if you
were to retain the authorization for LVC's that were out there now,
some things you would do, and if Congress had decided to lift the
freeze, even in those States that already allow some LCV oper-
However, I should say that some of our recommendations on the
data that you need to assess how safe these vehicles are do pertain
to non-LVC's. And, also, some of the special driver requirements,
I think, would pertain to drivers, say, of very heavy trucks. You
can have very, very heavy trucks that are not very long.
Senator EXON. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I
thought it basically might be what you wanted to say. There obvi-
ously is an interrelationship between all of these things. I think
every witness that we have had has made reference directly or in-
directly to the certification of the drivers. It all comes back to this:
In certain cases, you could have a truck with a certain weight or
a certain length which may be very heavy and very long. I would
suspect most studies likely would show that such a vehicle moving
down the road with a highly qualified and trained driver is not
nearly as dangerous as that same vehicle moving down the road
with a driver who has a license to drive something other than the
monster which is rolling along the road which people in smaller
cars are trying to get around.
So, I think that it is important that we recognize training, expe-
rience in drivers of trucks is very, very important. This leads me
back to the comments made by Senator Hutchison with regard to
NAFTA rules and regulations and what may happen when those
trucks start rolling across the highways. I addressed this on the
Senate floor during the NAFTA debate. I think it is something we
are going to be wrestling with a great deal.
Also, the statements you made, Mr. Mead, with regard to what
one's States do and do not do, I notice â€” I believe I noticed correctly
that Nebraska's neighbor to the south, Kansas, has approved
longer trucks than we have at the present time in Nebraska.
Did I read that map correctly?
Mr. Mead. Yes, you did. Nebraska lets them travel empty.
Senator ExoN. Nebraska what?
Mr. Mead. Lets them travel empty, if I recall correctly.
Senator ExoN. I see.
Mr. Mead. It is a patchwork quilt all the way around. I think
you are quite correct. And the Senator was pointing out about
Texas with NAFTA, and in looking at a chart that is in one of our
reports here about the States that currently use LVC's, and the dif-
ferences in licensing requirements, years of experience of driving,
training, equipment inspection requirements, all over the map.
Senator ExoN. I remember well, back when I was Governor of
Nebraska â€” and I do not remember what the length was at the
time, but it was considerably less than now â€” we had a restriction
in Nebraska. I don't remember the map, but I believe every other
State on Interstate 80 had authorized a longer length.
I think Nebraska and Iowa were the only two holdouts. What we
found happening, of course, was that the truckers were going on
Interstate 80 as far as they could go with their longer trucks. Then
they would divert to some other route, which, to me, did not make
a whole lot of sense from the standpoint doing what was right
safetywise or otherwise. I finally agreed to an extension of our lim-
its. And then finally, Iowa followed suit.
But once we set up this patchwork system of some States allow-
ing them and some States not, we started a domino effect, it seems
to me. Economic pressure begins to build and build and build. Why
not, if the State next door does it? This is why this other legislation
Mr. Slater, let me turn to you. What would it mean, in terms of
safety on the roads, should the freeze on vehicle length be re-
Mr. Slater. Mr. Chairman, if the freeze is repealed, then clearly.
States would have a lot more options to increase their size and
weight limits, and that could pose a serious problem.
The freeze gives us a snapshot of the situation as it is. I think
it sets the stage for us to be aggressive at the Federal level, which
is what we are trying to do with the comprehensive study, to begin
a process that allows us to look at the entire picture, rather than
dealing with these issues in a sort of hands-off/hands-on, give-and-
take approach that has occurred over the last 30 years. That is
what we are committed to.
I would also like to say that the Department of Transportation
is moving very aggressively when it comes to responding to the
challenges of NAFTA.
Senator Hutchison, right after â€” well, the beginning of this year,
we held, through the Secretary's leadership, a trinational summit
to deal with these very concerns.
We are now in the process of working with our Canadian and
Mexican counterparts to harmonize the various rules and regula-
tions governing motor carriers. So, our objective is to be proactive.
We also have planned in March of next year a truck safety sum-
mit that will be held in the west, in Kansas City, to deal with this
whole issue of safety, as it relates to the trucking industry, because
it is so critical.
And as we become more aggressive in seeking to remain competi-
tive in the global economy, we have to address this issue. Trucks
help to keep America moving, and we also have to look to the other
modes of transportation to pick up some of the slack, as well.
The final point I would like to make is that recently, I had occa-
sion to travel across America. In April of this year, I started on our
border to the north in Buffalo, NY, and I traveled over 14 days,
through 14 States, 3,500 miles, and I ended up in Laredo, TX.
It was to look, listen, and learn and to really become more
knowledgeable and sensitive to the issues that we have to address
if we want to really secure and retain a leadership role in the glob-
Trucking and the movement of goods and services and the use
of our entire transportation system will play a very important role
in that regard.
So, what is going on here today at this meeting is so very, very
important to the economic security of our nation. And we are going
to be proactive in addressing these concerns that are before us.
Senator EXON. This is a devil's advocate question which I will an-
swer partially. Maybe it is a softball question for you, but I think
it is something which needs to be said.
You have just explained the difficulty with all of these States
making their own decisions which should be overridden and dic-
tated by the Federal Government, how does this affect a State's
former Governor and traditionally States' rights Senator, such as
Senator Hutchison. And me.
Senator ExON. And Senator Hutchison. I did not think you were
Senator Hutchison. No, but I am a States' rights Senator.
Senator ExoN. I suppose the answer to this is that under our
form of Government, there are some things, and interstate highway
travel and traffic is one, which need regulating, primarily from a
safety standpoint, so that the safety interests of all of the citizens,
regardless in which State they live, are adequately protected.
Is that the answer to the devil's advocate question I posed?
Mr. Slater. That is the answer, sir. And clearly, it is a difficult
issue. We are always engaged in the process of balancing the wants
and desires of all who wish to clearly enjoy the full freedoms guar-
anteed by our form of govemm.ent. That relates to States, as well
I might note that my primary experience has been at the State
level, as well, 6 years as a member of the Arkansas Highway and
Transportation Commission. So, I am very sensitive to the point
that you raise.
But clearly, when it comes to safety, that has to be the No. 1 con-
cern of the Department of Transportation. That also has to be a
No. 1 concern that we work through with you, as members of this
committee, so interested in safety, as well as economic develop-
ment, job creation, et cetera.
So, we just have to engage in the delicate balancing exercise. But
we have had over 200 years of experience in dealing with that, and
I think in this instance, we will be successful here, as we have been
in the past.
Senator ExoN. I have one last question, Mr. Slater: Does trailer
length have any impact on the promise of intermodal traffic? That
is, can rail and seagoing equipment accommodate larger trailers?
Mr. Slater. That is a good question. And really, the point was
alluded to a second ago, when you were talking about how the in-
dustry, especially the shipping industry and rail interests, have put
together systems that allow them to accommodate trailers at cer-
So, clearly, we have to be sensitive to those kinds of expendi-
tures. But I would think that with everyone working together and
realizing that no one mode of transportation can accommodate the
transportation needs of the country to be competitive in the global
economy, then those kinds of issues can be addressed in a forth-
right, sensitive fashion.
And clearly, when we talk about the increasing lengths of trail-
ers as relates to tractor-trailers, we will definitely pursue and ad-
dress that issue.
That is why we have started this proactive comprehensive effort
within the Department of Transportation that includes more than
just officials within the Federal Highway Administration to help us
get a handle on what is happening out there and how we must be
sensitive to changes in the private sector.
Senator ExoN. Thank you, Mr. Slater.
Do you have further questions, Senator Hutchison?
Senator Hutchison. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I would just like to ask
a couple of questions.
First, I wanted to clarify that I am a States' rights Senator, but
I do think interstate commerce comes into play here very much.
I am also sensitive to the difficulties that there would be for a
person trying to take a product from Texas to California and hav-
ing to have different lengths or different weights that would mean
you would have to take part of it off.
I think that is going to be a burden on interstate commerce. So,
I did not want my comments to be taken that I think you should
be having to take parts on and off trucks as you go through States.
I think that would be nonproductive.
But, I would like to ask you, as it relates to NAFTA, Mr. Slater,
if you have an idea of how much harmony we would be able to get.
I do not want our truckers to be at a financial disadvantage with
the higher weight limits of Mexico and Canada.
But, on the other hand, I do not want to have our safety com-
promised by having a special permitting process for Canadian or
Mexican trucks that would add wear and tear on our highways or
safety risk for our travelers.
So, where are you looking, in general terms, for an equity here?
Mr. Slater. That is a very good question, Senator, and I think
that is why the Secretary was so quick in responding to the trans-
portation issues that NAFTA would necessarily require one to ad-
The trinational summit that I mentioned, that occurred earlier
this year, actually was the first event, if you will, held by this ad-
ministration responding to the passage of NAFTA.
And it was done because of a recognition of the importance of
transportation in making this a job-creating agreement in reality,
rather than just in concept, or in theory.
Because the President, in promoting NAFTA, noted that it would
be a job-creating effort that would bring jobs to this country, I can
assure you that it will be our commitment to ensure that our trans-
portation industries are not put at a disadvantage when it comes
to the harmonization process.
And also because of the commitment that we all have to safety,
we at some point will have to reconcile those two interests.
But clearly, it will not be our desire to participate in a process
that will result in our transportation industry being put at a dis-
advantage when it comes to harmonizing our rules and regulations
as relates to the motor carrier interests involving Mexico and Can-
Mr. Mead. And I should say that this is a very important point
you raise, because the typical U.S. truck, empty, weighs about
28,000 pounds. The typical Mexican truck, empty, weighs 45,000
Senator Hutchison. Let me just finish, because I know I have
to go. But just tell me how you are going to approach it. Will there
he notices of proposed rulemaking? Will there be bilateral negotia-
tions? Is there a commission that will be set just for this?
Just in general, what is your approach, so that everyone will be
able to have input?
Mr. Slater. The process will include some of all of that. We will
definitely be in contact with interested parties, both in the public
and private sector, to get their input.
There have been various committees established that involve the
participation of all interests who are concerned about this issue.
The process is ongoing. The trinational summit, transportation
summit, that was held was really the kickofif of that effort, the be-
ginning of that process.
And we are going to be in there negotiating in the tough spirit
that has characterized our negotiations with our trading partners
on a number of fronts, and we are just going to ensure that we are
not put at a disadvantage.
There will be a number of opportunities for participation, and we
will be in touch with the members of this committee as we move
Senator Hutchison. All right. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I do have some other questions that I would like
to submit for the record. Thank you.
Senator ExoN. That certainly is in order. Thank you. Senator.
On that point, before you leave. Senator, I would just like to ask
this question: Suppose, after all of the negotiations and hard-fought
compromises, you agree that, under NAFTA, you are going to have
a truck that is heavier and shorter or heavier and longer
Mr. Slater. Yes.
Senator ExON [continuing]. Than under the law that is affecting
the United States, including Texas, at that time. What happens in
that kind of scenario?
Mr. Slater. Well, I think then we would find very helpful some
of the activities we are engaged in currently. One, as we consider
more requirements, qualifications for LCV drivers. We are in the
process now of looking at that issue.
We would like to make those new requirements, if they become
necessary, a part of the motor carrier safety regulations.
We hope to have a notice of proposed rulemaking beginning with
that point either by the end of this year or January of next year.
So, that is something we are doing.
Also, we have an ongoing study that we entered into the begin-
ning of this year that deals with a review of the accident rates of
longer combination vehicles, and we hope to have the results of
that study in the near future, I believe sometime next year.
And then, again, our comprehensive effort to just look at all of
our efforts in the past, as relates to the regulation of motor carriers
and the regulation of the motor carrier industry, specifically as re-