Editorials

Uneasy rider: No to longer trucks

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto at a UK event in 2013.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto at a UK event in 2013.

Americans are far more likely to be killed by a large truck than a terrorist attack, which is why U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers should use his clout as House appropriations chairman to block any sneaky maneuvers that would force motorists to share the highways with even longer trucks.

As Congress faces another self-imposed crisis – a government shutdown looms unless a stopgap spending bill is approved by Friday – lawmakers are scrambling to attach dozens of unrelated riders to the must-pass measure.

The rider receiving the most attention would curb the resettlement of Syrian refugees in this country and appears to have taken some steam out of another Republican rider to defund Planned Parenthood.

One proposal whose backers hope can quietly hitch a ride on the spending bill without any attention would open the highways to rigs of double trailers, each 33 feet long, up from the current limit of 28 feet for each trailer.

This dangerous idea has twice been rejected by the Senate but is part of a House bill passed earlier this year.

Backers, including UPS and FedEx, say the longer trucks would eliminate millions of trips, cut down on crashes and pollution and help meet demand for lighter packages ordered online.

Longer trucks also would increase braking times and put more motorists in peril. Driving a truck is already one of the most dangerous occupations.

In Kentucky, 78 people died in crashes involving large trucks in 2013; they were among 3,602 victims of large-truck crashes nationwide.

Fortunately, Rogers is positioned to block longer trucks. CNN reports that Speaker Paul Ryan is keeping his promise of an open process that re-empowers committee chairs by leaving the “wheeling and dealing” to Rogers, R-Somerset, “who is trading offers and counteroffers with his Democratic counterparts and those on both sides of the aisle in the Senate” as they negotiate a stopgap spending bill.

While defunding Planned Parenthood and scapegoating refugees are also bad ideas, at least they’ve received extensive public discussion.

It’s hardly surprising that the shipping industry wants to avoid an open debate. But a change that would affect so many Americans every day deserves hearings and a full discussion. It most certainly should not sneak through as lawmakers rush to approve a crucial spending bill.

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