Over the objections of safety advocates, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a trucking industry bid to allow longer tandem trucks on the nation's highways.
The change, sought by the American Trucking Associations and large haulers such as FedEx Corp., would increase the permitted length of trailers hauled in tandem from 28 feet to 33 feet.
The 16-14 vote attached the legislation to a $56 billion spending measure to finance transportation and housing programs. But the bill faces a White House veto threat and a probable filibuster if GOP leaders try to bring it to the Senate floor.
The industry-backed amendment was written by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. The committee chairman, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., opposed the move but Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., cast a key vote to allow it to go forward.
The provision would mandate that states permit the 33-foot trailers but a large majority have chosen not to do so.
Pushing the measure were large trucking operations that stand to profit from lower costs. In opposition were unions such as the Teamsters, many states and local governments, and safety advocates. Many smaller trucking companies were against it as well.
Opponents say the longer trucks create more wear and tear on highways, are less safe on local roads than existing trucks, and are more likely to cross into adjacent and opposing lanes when making turns.
"Why would we do this when we know that people are going to lose their lives?" said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "There's no way you can argue this and say that highways are going to be safer."