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How Big is Too Big? Truck Debate Comes to Harrison

A state director of the New York Chapter of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks discusses goals and objectives with the Harrison Town Board.

With Interstates 287 and 684 winding through its borders, Harrison has always had an interest in highway safety and policy. So it's no surprise that a national debate over legal sizes of trucks made its way to the Harrison Town Board this week.

Anthony Livingston, director of the New York Chapter of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT) addressed the board briefly on August 2, informing it of the group's efforts to limit truck sizes on interstate highways.

Livingston said the CABT has been monitoring congress in an effort to fend off efforts to increase weight and size limits for tractor trailers on highways. 

The CABT, which is funded by the railroad industry, has been locked in a battle with opposing lobbyist groups including the American Trucking Associations as highway funding bills were debated in Congress earlier this year. A key debate between two sides was the regulation of truck sizes.

The American Trucking Associations is also distributing information of its own, claiming, among other things, that the CABT is spreading misinformation about the trucking industry in an effort to gain a competitive advantage for the railroad industry.

Lawmakers recently approved a two-year highway funding bill that does not expand the use of trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds so the Transportation Department can further study the issue, according to a report from The Washington Post.

Livingston told Harrison Town Board the CABT is hoping to drum up support from local and regional politicians and organizations for when the issue is re-visited in 2014. 

"Our concern is number one, first and foremost, public safety," said Livingston. "When you have these larger, heavier, trucks on the road, of course you increase your crash footprint."

He emphasized that larger trucks could increase the likelihood of accidents, especially in New York where he said many bridges aren't prepared to handle larger tractor-trailers.

"Heavier weights mean that you are going to wear down your brakes and tires and other equipment on the truck a lot faster," said Livingston. "Which leads to longer stopping distances for the drivers, steerability is a little bit more difficult for the drivers—it creates a safety issue for them."

After displaying a sign over his head portraying a triple-trailer truck with the words "a triple-trailer truck is as long as a 10-story building is high", Livingston said town boards all over the country are receiving visits from CABT representatives asking for consideration. 

The Harrison Town Board didn't take a stance on the issue.

"He's just trying to make everyone aware of it," said Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont, who said the town board hasn't been formally asked to take a side on the issue at this point.

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