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Schumer seeks to bar superlong trucks from LIE, large roads

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer speaks to members of

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer speaks to members of the media during a news conference April 23, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong

Democrats in the U.S. Senate will try to block legislation that would allow trucks up to 84 feet in overall length on all interstate highways -- or almost 10 feet longer than trucks now allowed on the Long Island Expressway and other large roads in the state -- Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday.

The measure, strongly supported by FedEx, Amazon and other shippers, would allow a truck to carry two trailers of 33 feet each, up from the current 28 feet. With the cab of the truck and two 33-foot trailers, such trucks would be as long as an eight-story building laid on its side, or almost as long as the 90 feet between bases on a baseball field, the senator said.

"Imagine yourself driving alongside a truck that size. Now imagine doing so in a rainstorm or a snowstorm where even the average-sized truck can cause a scare," Schumer said at a news conference near the Long Island Expressway in Roslyn Heights.

He said there were 620 fatal crashes in New York State involving large trucks between 2009 and 2014, and nearly 80 of them were on Long Island.

"With wider turning radiuses and longer passing distances [the trucks] would make Long Island roadways even more dangerous," said Schumer (D-New York).

The legislation has passed the full House and a Senate committee as part of an appropriations bill with strong Republican backing, but Schumer said his fellow Democrats would seek to strip the regulation from the bill on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

"The marginal increase in shipping efficiency does not outweigh the tremendous safety risks of these larger trucks, and I will be urging my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to join together to oppose it," he said.

Shipping companies have testified before Congress that they need the additional room on longer trucks because a sharp increase in purchasing on the Internet has resulted in a flood of lightweight packages that do not come near the federal weight limit of 80,000 pounds.

Schumer said the issue was brought to his attention by Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, who joined him at the news conference. Vecchio said later that it came to his attention from an industry source.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been studying rules on truck weight and length and recommended last month against changes until further study has been done.

Amazon vice president Paul Misener said at a congressional hearing earlier this month that "the 33-foot trucks are going to be safer because there will be fewer of them on the road, driving fewer miles."

Schumer and others have said the longer trucks need longer time to stop, but Misener told legislators that it was weight, not length, that affected stopping distance. "We don't support heavier trucks."

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