limits would increase the damage.
With respect to bridge damage, FHWA has concluded that the current bridge for-
mula without a gross weight cap would allow the operation of trucks so heavy that
they could cause severe structural damage to bridges on the Interstate system:
Within the range of configurations normally operated by carriers, the Bridge
Formula effectively prevents overstress on Interstate System bridges. If com-
binations were operated with many more axles than are commonly used, how-
ever, allowable vehicle weights derived from the Bridge Formula could be high
enough to severely damage Interstate bridges. Presently, the Gross Vehicle
Weight limit of 80,000 pounds on the Interstate System creates little incentive
I'U.S. DOT, 'The Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Per-
i*"AASHO Road test," Highway Research Board Special Report 61, National Academy of
^ March 25, 1994 Western Highway Institute letter, supra, note 4, pp. 4-5.
2iP.E. Irick, S.B. Seeds, and M.A. Diaz, ARE Inc., Engineering Consultants, "Characteristics
of Load Equivalence Relationships Associated with Pavement Distress and Performance Phase
II Study," Executive Summary, December 1991, prepared for the Trucking Research Institute,
ATA Foundation, Inc. The 5,600 to 1 ratio was derived from Equation 3 on page 6 and Table
3 on page 12. CRASH used values from Table 3 corresponding to the parameters used to define
AASHTCVs 9,600 to 1 ratio: SN=4.36, terminal PSI=2.5. All ratios are based on load equivalence
factors for flexible pavements which comprise about 60 percent of Interstate and principal arte-
22 Transportation Research Board, Truck Weight Limits, Special Report 225, 1990, p. 141.
23 Western Highway Institute Letter, supra, note 4, p. 6.
for carriers to add axles to existing combinations, but without a Gross Vehicle
Weight limit there would be such an incentive because the greater the number
of axles, the greater the permissible Gross Vehicle Weight. For instance, a
Turnpike Double with 25 axles could have a Gross Vehicle Weight of 227,500
pounds, and a Triple could weigh 205,000 pounds. ^4
Obviously, if Interstate bridges are at such great risk then bridges on the remain-
der of the NHS would be at risk of even greater structural damage.
As far as LCVs are concerned, we are not surprised by this most recent statement
of the ATA's real agenda. Their call for a "thaw" of the LCV freeze merely confirms
the ATA's overall plan to place the heaviest and longest trucks on our highways
without regard to tne dangers they present to everyday motorists or to the damage
they cause to our highways and bridges.
Close The Symms Amendment Loophole
These considerations show how our non-Interstate highways are at risk of major
increases in truck crashes and pavement damage. But weight abuses and legal loop-
holes have combined to ensure that both safety and pavement suffer from big trucKs
on our Interstates as well.
These loopholes allow states, under pressure from part of the trucking industry,
to exceed the federal 80,000 pound weight limit. The most important of these is the
"Symms Amendment" to the grandfather provision of Title 23, section 127. In 1956
Congress passed legislation to build the Interstate highway system. At the same
time, it passed a truck weight limit law on the Interstates to protect that huge in-
vestment from the pavement and bridge damage caused by heavy trucks. Since
some states, however, already had state laws with higher weight limits than the
new federal limit, those states had their higher limits grandfathered.
Until 1982 the determination of whether a state had grandfathered rights to issue
special permits allowing trucks heavier than the federal limit on the Interstates was
made by the Secretary of Transportation through the Federal Highway Administra-
In 1982, however. Senator Steve Symms sponsored an amendment which has cre-
ated complete chaos. It gives each state highway department absolute discretion to
determine whether it has grandfather rights, no matter how tenuous or blatant the
The result has been an explosion in the number of overweight trucks on Inter-
states. The number of divisible multi-trip permits for overweight trucks has in-
creased by more than 300 percent ^^ since the Symms Amendment was added to sec-
tion 127. And FHWA, despite possessing proof that state grandfather claims are in-
accurate, remains powerless to protect the Interstates and the motoring public be-
cause of the Symms Amendment.
The Symms Amendment must be repealed now.
Mr. Chairman, Congress must act now to stop the spread of overweight and
overlength trucks. CRASH urges this Committee and Congress to report out and
pass H.R. 4496, the Safe Highways and Infrastructure preservation Act of 1994.
Senator ExoN. I just have a question or two. In the first part of
your testimony, you used some statistics with regard to trucks in-
volved in accidents. And, I thought they were particularly telling.
Do you know offhand what is described as a truck in those statis-
tics you referenced? I mean, I can understand LCVs. Does a truck
in the statistics you presented include anything down to, say, a
half-ton pickup truck, farm truck, or is it only commercial trucks?
Ms. KONZ. I think probably Dr. Donaldson is better qualified to
answer that question since he helped collect that data.
Senator ExoN. OK.
Dr. Donaldson. The data base, Mr. Chairman, basically, from
1993, if you accept the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's fig-
ures or you accept the U.S. Government's figures, 4,700-some-odd
or 4,800-some-odd people died in heavy truck crashes.
^Federal Highway Administration, "The Feasibility of a Nationwide Network for Longer
Combination Vehicles," Report to Congress, June, 1985, p. 11-25.
26 Overweight Vehicles— Penalties and Permits, Federal Highway Administration, 1993.
Of that number, approximately 500 of them were in single-unit
trucks. That's a truck that's over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle
weight rating — 4,200-plus died in tractor-trailer rigs of various
kinds. And those are all over 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
So, the g^eat majority of those fatalities that Kay referred to were
in tractor-trailer rigs, combination rigs.
Senator ExoN. They were commonly what?
Dr. Donaldson. Combination rigs.
Senator ExoN. Combination rigs.
Dr. Donaldson. Yes. Eighteen-wheelers or a few LCVs, and
some western doubles with short pups.
Ms. Claybrook. But not pickup trucks.
Dr. Donaldson. Not pickup trucks.
Senator ExoN. Not pickup trucks.
Dr. Donaldson. Nothing below 10,000 pounds are in those stats.
Senator ExoN. In other words, we talk about trucks — ^you would
be surprised at the number of trucks that are running around
Washington, DC. I have never been able to quite figure out why or
how. But, I suppose per capita, there may be as many pickup
trucks in Washington, DC, as there are in North Platte, NE. I
never quite understood what that was all about. But it is the "in"
thing. In any event, though, they are not the type of trucks you are
using in your statistics here.
Dr. Donaldson. Nor even larger trucks like panel trucks or step
vans, nothing like that.
Senator ExoN. OK Thank you. Kay, let me ask you this ques-
tion: As a volunteer for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways,
what type of feedback have you gathered from the public regarding
the size of tractor-trailers on the highways? I assume that you have
done some surveys or questionnaires on this in Nebraska. Do you
have any information particular to Nebraska, or do you have infor-
mation on the broader scope of CRASH organization's activities
across the Nation?
Ms. KONZ. Certainly, the CRASH coalition in Nebraska is very
committed and believes that this is a very important issue. In
terms of collecting data within Nebraska, it is done on an informal
And every one I have spoken with is convinced that we need to
limit the length of tractor-trailers as well as their width. I believe
Joan can probably comment on that further.
Ms. Claybrook. I think that if you look at any of the public
opinion polls on this issue, on the size and weight of trucks. Sen-
ator, you will find that the overwhelming majority of the public are
extremely concerned about this issue.
The American Automobile Association has done some research in
this area. And we would be glad to submit for the record the infor-
mation that we have.
In 1991, during the debate over the LCV freeze, there were a
number of television ads that you might remember with an 800
number. And there were, I think, 100,000 people who called that
number and wanted more information, an overwhelming response
on this issue.
I have never spoken at a forum or been involved in any issue
where there is as much unanimity among the pubHc as there is on
the issue of size and weight of trucks.
Senator EXON. Joan, thank you very much. I appreciate that for
the record. We are trying to get all the information we can as we
continue to review this issue. Also, thank you for being here. I had
hoped you would get into the conversation somewhere. You have
been good enough to come before this committee on many, manv
occasions. Never have I ever seen you shut out, and I did not think
you would stand for being shut out this morning. I am glad you
I just have one other question, I believe, of Dr. Donaldson, or if
the other two care to comment on it, feel free to do so.
What is your view. Doctor, of the assertion that truck safety has
improved through initiatives such as advancements in truck
brakes, implementation of driver-training courses, and establish-
ment of safety enforcement programs?
Dr. Donaldson. My response in general — I would like to address
each of those in turn — is that we have improvements. And I would
like to applaud those improvements including some of the efforts
of the trucking industry to make our highways safer with better
As far as brakes go, we do have a very aggressive rule that was
put out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to
improve truck brakes.
That not only includes the obvious, the antilock brake rule, but
also, of course, things like automatic adjustment indicators and
automatic slack adjusters on brakes so you are not down there un-
derneath the truck trying to do a guess — or — by-golly eyeball job of
whether your brakes are in adjustment or not. That will help a lot
as that kind of technology moves through the fleet over the years.
As far as enforcement goes, our motor carrier safety assistance
program has done a lot of good things over the dozen years it has
been in existence.
I am still not happy with the number of inspectors we have out
in the roads. I still think there are far too few trucks that are being
inspected out there with far too few inspectors out to do the job.
And a lot of trucks, probably the overwhelming majority that are
running either illegally overweight, or with dangerous brakes or
bald tires or drivers who are violating the hours of service regula-
tions without being detected, are not being caught because the
chances of being caught are pretty remote.
Senator ExoN. OK
Ms. Claybrook. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to submit some informa-
tion for the record on this issue because there has been the claim
made that there has been a big decrease in truck fatality rates.
And while there has been some reduction, not in recent years has
it been significant.
But I would like to mention one other thing that came up earlier
in the testimony of the Federal Highway Administration with re-
gard to NAFTA.
You asked the question about whether or not the — and this was
clarified by the GAO — about whether or not the Congress would
have to be consulted in any negotiations over NAFTA.
And it was said that you would have to be. That is correct with
regard to weight because there is a Federal weight requirement.
There is no Federal length requirement.
And so the Department of Transportation, in your particular
area of jurisdiction, would have authority because there is no Fed-
eral weight limitation to negotiate under NAFTA without nec-
essarily asking for any Federal congressional authorization for this.
And one of the reasons that we think that the committee is — it
is very important that the committee is considering at this time the
issue of length along with other — the committee is considering
weight is this issue.
And so, I do think that that ought to be a part of your calculus,
because if you do make a determination to support length legisla-
tion that has a particular Federal length limit, then you would
have to be consulted, obviously, before any further negotiation deci-
sions were made.
Senator EXON. Thank you for that, Joan. You got my attention
with that. I hope you got the staffs attention.
I thought that I clearly asked the right question of Government
officials who were here. I thought their answer to me was because
of the way the law is written and the way NAFTA is written, they
could not give away anything with regard to weight or length of
trucks which exceeded what was authorized at that particular time
by the Federal Government.
Ms. Claybrook. Well, I can just give you an example. There is
no Federal weight-Federal length limit. And so therefore, the only
limits are at the State level.
And what happened with regard to driver licensing, which in the
past has been a State level requirement, is that when they — the
Department of Transportation in 1992 signed an agreement, an
international agreement with Mexico and Canada over driver li-
censing, the State of California objected.
The State of California was told — and I would be glad to submit
information for the record on this — was told that they would lose
their Federal highway funds if they interfered in this process. And
so they backed off.
So, where you have a situation where it is only individual States
that might be affected, the Department of Transportation is the
800-pound gorilla. And so there is an advantage, of course, to hav-
ing the Congress involved.
Dr. Donaldson. Could I footnote Joan's response, Mr. Chairman,
with your permission? Joan is accurate in everything she says.
But I think that one of the things that has to be emphasized
here, underscored as strongly as possible, is that the highway sys-
tem right now, including the interstate system for the trucking in-
dustry is a spoils system.
And indeed, contrary to the 800-pound gorilla in the domain of
Congress, having only the discretion to change our nominal weight
laws on both axle and gross weights, in fact, the Federal Highway
Administration which has direct oversight for weights on our high-
ways, on our interstate highways, is the 98-pound weakling on the
beach, because right now, Mr. Chairman, the States are operating
under an unfettered interpretation of their own grandfather rights
pursuant to the 1956 Interstate Highway Act to accord themselves
higher axle and higher gross weight Hmits than on the books in 23
U.S.C. Section 127.
And what is happening is every day of the week we have tens
and tens of thousands of trips being run in about one-half the
States in this country under special permits.
Some of those special permits are being awarded on the notion
that the loads that are being pulled are somehow nondivisible, indi-
visible loads when, in fact, they are commodities which are inher-
Those permits are available cheap. They are easy to get. They do
not even come close to recapturing the destruction of our roads and
And right now, to be cynical about it, both the Federal Highway
Administration and the trilateral negotiators at NAFTA have the
capability, Mr. Chairman, to use far higher weight limits through
many States than an 80,000-pound limit that is on the books right
now in Federal law to facilitate the increase in the weight of both
Mexican and Canadian trucks.
And they can also provide inducements particularly to border
States to raise their weight limits off of the interstate system, par-
ticularly on major, what are going to be, National Highway System
And then we have the absurd proposition which will be brought
before Congress that higher weights are operating on major high-
ways off the interstate system.
Why do you not give us some uniformity and parity by raising
the limits on the interstate system and give us those higher weight
limits which are a halfway house to what Canadian and Mexican
That is what is developing in Cancun, Mexico, right now, Mr.
Chairman, and what eventually will probably be brought in front
of you as being an international fait accompli for your consultative
"agreement" on its probity and its value and its safety and eco-
nomic consequences for Americans.
Senator ExoN. Thank you. I gave them forewarning.
Dr. Donaldson. Yes. You did.
Senator ExoN. I am very much attuned to that. The lawyers
have gotten into this thing now. They usually do. I am advised that
basically, however, with the LCVs, there is a Federal freeze.
Ms. Claybrook. Yes, with the LCVs there is. That is correct.
Senator ExoN. That they could not violate the LCV freeze in ne-
gotiations with NAFTA. But there is a question about the length
of individual trailers; is that right?
Ms. Claybrook. That's right. On the LCV freeze, which was en-
acted in 1991, it does prohibit all States other than those that had
the LCVs in 1991 from using LCVs. And it's by particular high-
way. And so that is correct. The LCV freeze does help.
But if it is not an LCV, but it is just the individual trailer length,
then they certainly could do it. And as Jerry says, off the inter-
state, they could also do it unless the NHS system adopts the
80,000-pound weight. So, there are some big loopholes we see.
Senator ExoN. Do any of you have information as to what per-
centage of Mexican trucks are what we generally refer to as a sin-
82-9^5:? a - Qd - ■:>
gle length rather than LCVs, or is the mixture of the trucking in-
dustry in Mexico about the same as it is in the United States?
Dr. Donaldson. No. It is not, Mr. Chairman. The preferred rig
in Mexico is a 45- or 48-foot box on the back of a single tractor.
Their trucks are built significantly different than they are in the
You heard testimony earlier today from Ken Mead about the sub-
stantial increase in the tare or dry weight of a tractor-trailer rig
It is because they are built very heavy with very, very durable
suspensions, particularly because of the fact that the majority of
their travel in Mexico is on un paved roads to this day.
And I might point out, just as an aside, that those trucks are
particularly destructive to American highways, especially if you al-
ready have any degraded pavement. They will beat a road to pieces
at a rate many times faster than an American truck.
Ms. Claybrook. There is also — Canadian vehicles are longer.
The Mexican ones are shorter. They did not want to actually have
the 53-foot trailers in Mexico, but they have acceded to that now,
it is my understanding.
Dr. Donaldson. Canadians use LCVs in a much more popular
way than the Mexicans do.
Senator EXON. I thank this panel very, very much. Gerald, thank
you. Thank you, Joan, and thank you, Kay, for being here. We have
submitted your full testimony for the record. You are excused.
Senator Exon. The witness today is Thomas J. Donohue, the
president and chief executive officer of the American Truckers As-
Tom, would you please come forward and take a seat? As I have
indicated previously, your record has been included, Tom, in the
record at this time. I would appreciate you summarizing your pre-
pared testimony at this time. We are glad to have you before the
committee once again.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS J. DONOHUE, PRESmENT AND CHIEF
EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS
Mr. Donohue. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. We
are happy to be here.
It has been a long, hot summer with the Congress in town —
longer than we would like, I might say. And so first, may I say to
your committee and to your stafif^ a very special thank you for help-
ing us through the difficult discussions surrounding trucking de-
regulation, ICC funding, and other matters.
The bill which you have put forward leveled the playing field and
brought common sense to a very difficult situation. We thank you
Senator ExoN. Thank you.
Mr. Donohue. Second, Mr. Chairman, much to the surprise of
some people in the room, today I will confine my comments to a
number of safety issues that are underway that we would rec-
ommend that you and your staff consider. I will leave the discus-
sions of longer and bigger trucks to the studies that are being con-
ducted by those in Government and those outside of Government.
I think it will be some long time before we are back here talking
about whether any adjustments or changes ought to be made, al-
though I will make one comment, in concluding my statement
today, about some of the economic factors that the staff and you
might want to be thinking about in the future.
Let me first just say a word. You know that since my arrival at
ATA a little more than 10 years ago, safety has been our primary
Together with DOT and the Congress, and in particular this com-
mittee, we have passed the commercial driver's license. We have
eliminated the safety exemptions in commercial zones. We have,
much to my wife's chagrin, talked and done things about radar de-
We have created a Federal requirement for mandatory random
drug testing which we vigorously advanced. And we have a 1,000-
percent increase in the number of roadside inspections this year.
That amounts to almost 2 million inspections.
The industry went out and did things itself. Not every safety ef-
fort involves Government. ATA provides a safety audit to any com-
pany in the country that would like it.
We work with the railroads on Operation Lifesaver to improve
safety at the rail crossings.
We have fielded road teams of professional truck drivers with
more than 1 million miles of safe driving, on national and State
levels, to go out and educate young drivers and older drivers and
drivers of all types.
We have worked with the Federal Government money to put an
incident management program in place that clears up congestion
and improves mobility very quickly.
The results of this are very clear. While we have had an increase
of about 43 percent in the number of miles we have driven over
that time, we have reduced the rate of fatal accidents by 39 per-
A number which I have not talked about and which I have just
gotten my hands on shows that, over that period of time, because
of what we have all collectively done, we have avoided killing about
13,370 people, for savings based on Federal calculations of about
$10 billion. If you include pain and suffering calculations, it
amounts to a savings of about $37 billion.
We can be proud of these accomplishments. But there is much
more to do. Mr. Chairman, let me just quickly mention the "much
more to do."
We are all working to move forward on alcohol testing. We do
have a problem. The Congress ought to look at the question of
preemployment testing. That is really a stupidity test.
It is not a safety test. If you come for a job interview drunk, you
ought not to be hired. But the unnecessary costs of testing are
very, very high. We are now in court on the matter. I hope you
would take it into consideration.
Second, we support antilock brakes. We want to see every new
major truck in this country have them by the turn of the century.
This is a system that should be put in gradually to accommodate
creating maintenance systems.
We have experience that shows that we are still having a lot of
problems with antilock brakes. We oppose the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration's proposal to put them in in the next
18 months. But we vigorously support moving ahead.
Further, we are concerned with NHTSA's design standard ap-
proach. It is illegal. We need NHTSA to create performance stand-
ards so the people who know how to make brakes will have the
flexibility to go ahead and do so.
I hope that you will get NHTSA to rewrite this proposed nile in
performance terms, phasing it in at about 25 percent a year begin-