Settlement Finally Reached
Just how long should long-distance truckers be allowed to stay behind the wheel?
The Bush administration three times authorized longer hours behind the wheel and on the road for long-distance truckers, despite the fact that the courts repeatedly tossed out the rule.
Now the Obama administration has agreed to thrown out the controversial proposal after pressure from Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Teamsters Union.
The groups had sued to block the longer hours last March citing the impact on traffic and consumer safety.
The settlement was announced today by Public Citizen.
"We are pleased that the government has decided to take seriously its responsibility to protect truck drivers and the public from unsafe driving conditions instead of bending to the interests of the trucking industry," said Greg Beck, the Public Citizen lawyer handling the case.
In March 2009, for the third time, the groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to throw out the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule.
In both 2004 and 2007, the courts had vacated the rule saying not enough time had been paid to consider the effects of longer hours on safety. The Bush administration had reissued the rules regardless.
The rules allowed truck drivers to stay behind the wheel up to 11 consecutive hours, up from 10. The off-duty rest and recovery time was cut from a full weekend of 50 hours to a few as 34 hours.
The trucker could spend up to 17 more hours driving each week.
Joan Claybrook, formerly of Public Citizen says, ”There is a reason that the truck driving profession is often referred to as ‘sweatshops on wheels’.”
Commenting on the decision, Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said “Every day, truck drivers fall asleep in their cabs, and all too frequently the results are catastrophic. Unfortunately, these incidents and crashes don’t garner the same government attention and action as airline pilot fatigue."
Said Daphne Izer, co-founder, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), whose son and three friends were killed in 1993 in a crash caused by a tired trucker, “The good news is that there will be a new hours-of-service rule that hopefully will protect truck drivers and families like mine. The bad news is that the Obama administration nominee to lead the federal agency responsible for issuing this new rule is a trucking industry lobbyist. This nomination puts the trucking industry in the driver’s seat and will detour any meaningful and overdue reforms.”
She is referring to the nomination of Anne Ferro, a former Maryland Motor Truck Association CEO to head the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
In 2005, more than 5,200 people were killed and another 114,000 were injured in truck crashes, according to P.A.T.T. The group notes that truck crash fatalities increased every year from 2003 to 2005 during the first two years the Bush Administration HOS rule was in effect.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has agreed to redraft new Hours of Service (HOS) regulations within nine months, reports Reuters.
Earlier this month following a Distracted Driver Summit, the Department of Transportation decided to work on rules that ban or restrict texting and cell phone use by truck and bus operators. #