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Legislation allows extra-long semis on ND roads

BISMARCK (AP) — Supporters of a bill that would allow extra-long semis on North Dakota roadways say it addresses a growing need to move cargo, given the increase in e-commerce and a shortage of truck drivers.

But, opponents of the so-called “road train” legislation fear it would increase traffic fatalities and damage roads and bridges.

Such road trains generally consist of a semitractor pulling multiple trailers and exceeding state and federal length and weight limits.

“The reality is we need to be able to move more freight with less people,” said Matt Gardner, North Dakota Motor Carriers Association lobbyist told legislators Thursday, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Landis Larson, president of the North Dakota AFL-CIO, told lawmakers that road trains pose dangers to workers who commute, and place an “unnecessary strain on an already underfunded and crumbling infrastructure.”

The state Department of Transportation has not taken a formal stance on the bill, but operations director Wayde Swenson said there is no system in place for licensing road train drivers. Swenson said he’s also concerned that the proposal could violate federal law given Congress’s oversight of the national trucking network.

The House Transportation Committee endorsed a measure which launches a pilot program that would allow larger trucks on North Dakota’s major roadways. It urges Congress to amend restrictions on truck length and weight for Interstates 94 and 29 in North Dakota.

The Senate Transportation Committee took no action on a related measure.