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David Lowe
David Lowe
Attorney • (414) 727-2200

Are Campaign Contributions Compromising Highway Safety?

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How safe would you feel driving down the highway beside a 97 foot long assembly of four trucks linked together, with the trailing three mounted on each other and only their rear wheels in contact with the pavement? Can you imagine any good reason why our government would permit this dangerous combination on our streets and highways?

Smells like trucking industry money at work.

Saddlemount vehicle transporter combinations, or “four ways” for short, is the industry phrase used to describe this method of cheaply transporting new trucks to dealers. Four trucks traveling piggy-back style requries fewer trips and fewer drivers. The dangers of four-ways, have been discussed elsewhere. As blogger Steven Hill observes, “From the side, if one roars by you on the road, they look like elephants holding each others’ tails with their trunks-only much, much larger and more dangerous. “
The non-profit Partnership For Safe Driving puts it this way:

So, we will soon be seeing the equivalent of small trains driving alongside us on the highways, except that these trains will not be on tracks and the “conductors” will have no way of controlling the rear end of their trains.

Today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports on trucking industry campaign contributions to key congressmen while proposed legislation was before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that eventually was passed as part of the 2005 highway reauthorization bill. The Bush Administration’s Federal Highway Administration is set to issue regulations to implement the bill, and trucking industry interests are pushing for an interpretration that would allow these dangerous loads on our nation’s highways. Steven Hill of Thomas Paine.com notes that there is some opposition to the new regulations, including some Republicans and truck driver groups, but observes that Congress has largely been AWOL on the issue.

It seems, once again, that campaign contributions may be working against protection of the public, underscoring the need for campaign finance reform.