Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Friday deadline looms in behind-the-scenes battle over truck safety

More people will die if Congress weakens truck safety to make the trucking industry happy. And Congress may just do that as it races to meet the Dec. 12 deadline to pass a budget bill.

Teamsters are joined with safety advocates to fight an effort to let truck drivers work 82 hours a week. Fred McLuckie, director of Federal Legislation and Regulation, said at a press conference yesterday:
 We’re standing here trying to stop a proposal that can put truck drivers on the road for more than 80 hours a week. That’s twice the normal 40-hour work week! 
And we’re already asking drivers to reset their clock after only 34-hours of rest. That’s 12 hours short of a weekend. How many of us would want to, or be ready, to go back to work for the week on Sunday afternoon? That’s essentially what we ask truck drivers to do, week in and week out, and they’re already working 60-70 hours a week.
The New York Times denounced the push to endanger drivers in a stinging editorial:
As Congress scrambles this week to reach a year-end budget deal, powerful special interests and their lawmaker-enablers on Capitol Hill are busy inserting favored provisions in the omnibus spending bill with scant regard for potential public harms. 
An egregious case in point is the rider that Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, is pushing on behalf of trucking interests. This atrocious giveaway would suspend existing Department of Transportation truck safety regulations put in place in 2012 following a lengthy, transparent and data-driven process to make sure truck drivers get sufficient rest when operating on the nation’s highways. 
Unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acts quickly to block inclusion of the Collins rider in the final bill, the maximum allowable work limits for truck drivers would rise from an average of 70 hours per week to over 82. That would rashly put lives at risk for the sake of boosting industry profits.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned against the Collins rider on the DOT website
This rider will have the effect of once again allowing a segment of the trucking industry to operate an average of as many as 82 hours per week. The best science tells us that’s unsafe and will put lives at risk. Our responsibility to the traveling public requires us to warn Congress of these risks and urge reconsideration.
U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ralph Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are leading the fight in the Senate to keep the current safety rules. Read about it here.

And stay tuned.