The tug-of-war continues in the nation's capital this week over allowing tractors pulling longer 33-ft. double trailers on federal and interstate highways, as opposed to the double 28-ft. trailers currently specified. Only at this point, it's not so much legislative debate as a battle for public opinion as related congressional activity brews.

"Some in Congress want to force states to allow super-size trucks on our roads. These bigger trucks would be even longer than the double-trailer trucks on the roads today," says Clyde, OH Police Chief Bruce Gower in 30- and 60-second radio ads. He also asserts that "super-size double-trailer trucks are not safe for you or your family," likening the longer double-trailer trucks to "an eight-story building tilted on its side."

The ads — funded by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT) and running on three radio stations serving the Washington, D.C. metro area — claim law enforcement officers like Gower and truck drivers as well as the U.S. Dept. of Transportation are against the longer trailers.

Gower reinforces those points. "As a police chief, I'm concerned because these super-size double-trailer trucks will take longer to stop than the trucks on the road today," he states. "And as a motorist, I know firsthand how stressful it can be when trucks with double trailers pass you on the highway — the last thing we need to do is make them longer."

Notably, CABT's radio segments hearken to some key language that was heard during the Senate's debate of the six-year highway funding bill it passed over the summer. That reference to an "eight-story building tilted on its side" is one example; that's also been said by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has called for comprehensive safety study of longer-length trailers.

"Allowing trucks that are the equivalent of an eight-story building on wheels to share the road with our cars runs counter to all notions of highway safety," Feinstein has stated. "It's only logical that we wait to receive all the facts before making sweeping changes to federal law."

It's probably worth breaking down that imagery. Depending on who's doing the construction, stories on buildings range from as little as 10 to — more typically — around 13 ft. floor to floor, making an eight-story building about 80 to 104 ft. high minus any additional fixtures. With two 33-ft. trailers, you've got those 66 ft. plus coupling hardware and a power unit to pull them, which does clearly get you closer to the lower end of the building height possibility.

Set to run for several weeks, the radio ads come as the House of Representatives' respective committees of jurisdiction reportedly are working to hash out a new, long-term surface transportation funding bill to mate up with the Senate's six-year legislation passed back in June. The Senate's bill barely squeaked in a policy rider to allow the twin 33-ft. trailers. 

Also note that the Obama Administration issued a policy statement in June declaring that along with other provisions that had been included in House highway funding legislation at the time, it "strongly objects" to the longer trailers. The administration stated that the provisions "would undercut public safety, including by letting the trucking industry avoid truck size and weight limits."

Further, the administration referenced "troubling changes to truck size and weight limit [that] could significantly compromise safety on our nation's roads."