Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The fight goes on to keep tired truckers off the road

At least one U.S. senator vows to follow the public's wishes to keep tired truckers off the road.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he will try to restore the 70-hour limit that truck drivers can work in a week. Congress extended those house to 82 in the hideous CRomnibus bill. The CRomnibus also lets already earned benefits be cut for retirees, allows Wall Street banks to gamble with taxpayer-insured dollars and permits rich people to spend much, much more on political campaigns.

President Obama signed the bill into law last night.

What's especially galling about the dangerous increase in the number of hours truckers may drive is how it passed. First, Maine Sen. Susan Collins sneaked it onto a spending bill -- one larded, by the way, with gifts for the wealthy (like the trucking industry) at the expense of the many.

Second, Collins did it two days before a Walmart driver who hadn't slept in 24 hours slammed into a limousine, killing James McNair and critically injuring Tracy Morgan.

Third, the measure was passed without hearings or debate. (Tracy Morgan is suing Walmart for its lax safety practices.) If members of Congress had openly deliberated about the dangerous increase in the number of hours truckers may drive, they would have found 80 percent of the public wants truck drivers' hours limited to 70 hours a week.

As the Commercial Carrier Journal reported:
The survey by Lake Research Partners shows 80 percent of the public oppose Congress “raising the number of hours a semi-truck driver is allowed to work in a week from 70 to 82 hours,” which is “more than twice the normal work week for most people,” as the poll question reads. 
“This survey reveals a clear disconnect between what the public wants and what special trucking interests want from Congress at the expense of public safety for everyone,” Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Jackie Gillan said in conference call. “We urge Congress to reject this anti-safety change and heed the public’s correct assessment of the dangers.” 
Pollster Joshua Ulenberry called the results “remarkable” and “impressive.” 
“You do not get to 80 percent opposed in any question unless you have really wide and deep support,” he said, noting the bipartisan breakdown of the survey responses.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Blumenthal pushed an amendment to keep the existing hours of service limits. Blumenthal said he'll fight on:
I certainly will make an effort legislatively to reverse the rollback. All of the folks who have an interest in transportation safety are dismayed and disheartened by this rollback of common-sense safety rules, everyone from the Teamsters and the truck drivers to the safety advocates.