FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2016
Contact: Allison Kennedy, 202-408-1711, email@example.com
With Memorial Day Weekend Approaching and Record Number of Highway Deaths and Injuries Predicted, Congress Moves Special Interest Bill Putting Even More Tired Truckers on the Roads with Families
Statements on Today’s House Appropriations Committee Action to Repeal Commonsense Safety Rules on Working and Driving Limits of Truck Drivers in Transportation Funding Bill
Jackie Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates): Just days before the Memorial Day holiday begins, the House Committee on Appropriations advanced a transportation spending bill which contains a deadly provision that will put more tired truckers on the road with families. Truck driver fatigue is a well-known and well-documented problem and a major factor in truck crashes. Yet, for the third consecutive year, leaders of the House Appropriations Committee have put special corporate interests in the driver’s seat to determine safety rules. As a result, the bill will overturn the Obama Administration’s hours of service rule and replace it with the Bush Administration rule which allowed significantly more driving and work hours and took away the required two nights off. The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill also preempts state laws that provide meal and rest breaks for truck drivers. This is corporate welfare for the trucking companies and corporate warfare on public safety.
We thank Congressman David Price (D-NC) and all the members of the Committee who supported his amendment to strip the bill of these special interest giveaways. For the past several years, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have put out the welcome mat for special interests to attach anti-safety riders to repeal and revise federal and state safety rules that they don’t like. There have been no congressional hearings, no scientific review and no public input on these measures. And, for a very good reason. None of these proposals would ever withstand public and expert scrutiny. They can only be enacted when well-connected trucking industry lobbyists get their friends in Congress to secretly insert them into “must pass” government spending bills.
Cathy Chase, Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Advocates: Most Americans are about to enjoy a three-day weekend off to honor those who served our country, to spend time with family and friends, and to enjoy the unofficial launch of summer. In sharp contrast, today the House Appropriations Committee took away truck drivers’ “weekend off.” Under the Obama rule a truck driver was given just two “nights” off, once a driver had reached his/her maximum driving hours. Evidently, two “nights” off after a truck driver’s grueling 70+ hour work week was too luxurious for certain corporate trucking executives, and the Committee basically reverted back to the Bush rule which gave drivers 34 hours off – only one day and 10 hours, and no two nights rest.
Unfortunately at the expense of public safety, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) annual spending bill has become a “trucking bill” that also happens to fund government programs. The integrity of the legislative process must be restored, and the toll of 4,000 people killed every year and 100,000 people injured in truck crashes must be alleviated.
The average 40-hour work week of most Americans pales in comparison to the brutal 80+ hours of working and driving for truck drivers under the Bush rule. The House and Senate THUD bills will continue making truck driving “sweatshops on wheels” by forcing truck drivers to work long hours without sufficient time off to rest and recover.
The Obama Administration rule, which is dismantled in both the House and Senate THUD bills, was the result of an open and transparent rulemaking process, numerous public listening sessions and careful consideration of approximately 21,000 formal docket comments by drivers, carriers, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry associations. Today, public safety was run off the road by well-financed trucking interests, and American families and truck drivers will pay the price.