Huffington Post: [Some in Congress] Want To Use Zika Funding Bill To Keep Truckers On The Road Longer

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

Huffington Post: [Some in Congress] Want To Use Zika Funding Bill To Keep Truckers On The Road Longer

Add-on provision could let truckers work more than 80 hours a week.

WASHINGTON ― Want to keep the government open? Want to fund the Zika response? The trucking industry and Republican allies in Congress say the price for that could be weakening rest rules for truck drivers, sources said.

The industry is trying to latch onto the stopgap bill that Congress must pass this month to combat Zika and to fund the government until Dec. 9, hoping to slip in a provision that would permanently block a rest regulation for truck drivers that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has tried to implement since 2013.

The rule would ensure that drivers take off at least two nights a week and drive no more than 70 hours. It was enacted because research suggested the best, most restorative sleep happens at night, and because accidents jump dramatically when drivers are fatigued.

The industry and many drivers believe this rule robs them of flexibility. Forcing drivers to sleep at night means they have to drive during the daytime, when there are more vehicles on the roads and more accidents, they argue.

Sources familiar with talks over the government funding bill and Zika legislation say Republicans are pushing the unrelated trucking provision, and that Democrats are reluctant to go along.

“They want to make the blockage of the rule permanent,” one of the sources said, speaking on background because matters were still being negotiated.

Although trucking policy has nothing to do with Zika or short-term government appropriations, the industry has repeatedly used funding crises to attach riders that it favors and cannot pass through the regular legislative process.

The trucking lobby, which spends more than $20 million a year to influence Congress, has managed to block the rule before by getting it suspended for more study. It won that concession in the infamous “CRomnibus” spending bill that kept the government from shutting down shortly before Christmas in 2014.

The offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) did not answer questions about the provision. And since the details of the current bill are not public, it was unclear what the new trucking language would be.

It could be similar to provisions that the trucking industry got added to earlier Zika and funding bills that have not passed Congress. One such provision in the Senate would let drivers stay behind the wheel for 73 hours each week, with an additional 8.5 hours permitted for other work.

The idea has not been studied by safety experts and none of the sleep provisions pushed by the industry have been subjected to congressional hearings.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zika-funding-trucker-safety_us_57e038a6e4b04a1497b5f5fb

Maine Voices: Sen. Collins needs to change her position on trucking safety rules

As summer winds down, it is time to reflect on the safety of our roads and the hundreds of loved ones across the country who were needlessly killed or injured in truck crashes over the past few months. Our sons were killed in crashes caused by tired truckers. They were two of the nearly 4,000 people who die each year in truck crashes, many of which are preventable. Another 100,000 people are seriously injured.

Since the tragic deaths of our sons, our mission has been devoted to preventing this tragedy from happening to others by promoting common-sense safety solutions. Yet, one of our own U.S. senators, Susan Collins, continues to thwart our efforts to improve truck safety for families in Maine and across the country.

For the past few years, Sen. Collins has been the flag-bearer for trucking interests seeking to undermine and undo safety rules. From her powerful seat as chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that is responsible for determining spending levels for federal transportation programs, she has continually provided special access and favors to trucking interests.

For example, she single-mindedly sought to stop federal rules issued in 2013 on the number of driving and resting hours for truck drivers. Although truck driver fatigue is a well-documented and major cause of truck crashes, she just won’t stop.

After her previous attempts to kill off the federal safety rule on rest time for truck drivers fell short of her goal, she decided to take another approach. Instead of allowing the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct an open and public rulemaking for a regulation based on research and science, she opted to write the rule herself.

Of course, she did it behind closed doors with the help of her trucking friends. When families of truck crash victims and safety groups objected and opposed her safety assaults, she resorts to questioning our motives. Does this behavior sound familiar from a politician in the news these days?

Several weeks ago, Sen. Collins announced in a Washington Post op-ed reprinted in this newspaper that she will not be voting for Donald Trump for president. One of the reasons she cites is his criticism of the grieving parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, which she found unacceptable. Yet she is quick to criticize grieving parents who have lost children in truck crashes because we won’t be silenced and have the audacity to challenge her efforts to set back safety on behalf of special trucking interests.

The senator complained earlier this year in media interviews that safety groups were ignoring other provisions recently passed in Congress mandating federal rules forspeed-limiting devices on large trucks and electronic logging devices for recording work and driving hours of truckers.

For many years, we have strongly supported and urged adoption of these truck safety measures and will continue to push agency actions because of unacceptable and excessive government delays. During these years, Sen. Collins has stood on the sidelines on these issues.

Now, she stands near the finish line of our long and difficult efforts to enhance safety, eager and ready to take credit for these safety improvements that were proposed, promoted and brought to near conclusion by others.

Increasing the number of hours that a trucker can work and drive and reducing rest time, as Sen. Collins has done, are not sensible solutions unless you are championing industry profits. Truck crashes have surged from 286,000 in 2009 to 411,000 in 2014– a 44 percent increase. Furthermore, truck crash injuries have skyrocketed by 50 percent during that same period. Truck crash fatalities also continue to rise, increasing nearly 16 percent between 2009 and 2014.

The bad news is the DOT just released figures showing that truck crash fatalities increased by another 4 percent from 2014 to 2015, exceeding 4,000 annual deaths for the first time since 2008.

A staggering 80 percent of the public oppose longer hours for truck drivers. Truck drivers deserve a real “weekend” off and the public deserves to be sharing the road with truck drivers who are rested and alert. It is time for Sen. Collins to stop picking on victims of truck crashes and safety groups and start listening to her constituents and the American people she was elected to represent.

Link: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/07/maine-voices-sen-collins-needs-to-change-her-position-on-trucking-safety-rules/

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Daphne Izer of Lisbon and Christina Mahaney of Jackman are mothers whose sons were killed in fatigue-related truck crashes.