There have been recent, unbelievable changes in trucking safety rules that jeopardize our collective safety. As reported in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and US News and World Report on December 8, 2016, the trucking industry scored a victory that week when Republican lawmakers blocked the Obama administration’s safety rules designed to keep tired truck drivers off the highway.
Back in December 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – which is charged with regulating the number of hours truck drivers may operate to ensure that they are not driving while fatigued – issued a new rule to stop fatigued driving by making changes to the “hours of service” rules for truck drivers. The rule was complicated, but it basically boiled down to two updated requirements. One required drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first 8 hours of their shift so they can stay alert on the road. The other updated the use of the 34-hour rest period, known as the “restart”. In the interest of safety, the 2011 rule restricted drivers to using the restart only once every seven days and it required that the restart period include at least two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Basically, it required that drivers have the opportunity to take a very real rest and catch up on sleep before working another very long week. The net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.
But wait, there is more. The American Trucking Association is intending to return in January 2017 when Republicans control the White House and Congress and try to block state laws that require additional rest breaks for truckers beyond what is required under federal rules. This is madness and, obviously, has raised concern among safety advocates that it might signal the start of broad rollback of transportation safety regulations once there is no longer a Democratic president to check the tendency of Republican legislators to side with industry.
Such safety rule rollbacks show utter irresponsibility on the part of the trucking industry and the Republican legislators who are supporting such changes.
Please write/call your Congressmen and tell them you are depending on them to keep tired truckers off the roads. Request that they reconsider such trucking safety rule rollbacks and refuse to pass any other proposals that will make our highways and roads more dangerous. Our Congressmen are answerable to us, the people who elect them, and not to industry leaders whose profit-motive and short-sightedness detract from our collective safety. We cannot sit back and merely hope that the pledge to “Make America Great Again” will not destroy previous efforts to Keep America Safe.