Monroe County residents have witnessed some spectacularly devastating truck accidents over the years. They should beware measures under consideration in Congress this week that would raise truckers’ allowable working and driving hours, risking even more crashes that would imperil drivers themselves and the motoring public.
Congress is doing this virtually without public scrutiny — without hearings and under pressure from the trucking industry — by including these unsafe proposals in fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills. Elected officials in both the Senate and the House don’t want to get in the way of their precious federal funds.
But human life is precious, too. Senate and House committees are considering raising truckers’ allowable hours from the 60 currently permitted to 73 driving hours per week, plus 10 non-driving hours — loading, unloading, for example. Truckers could take as little as a mere day plus 10 hours, just 34 hours total, time off before they could begin their “work week” all over again. This is more than risky, it’s dangerous. Public safety should never be compromised for the sake of trucking companies’ bottom line.
Drivers themselves oppose these changes. The Teamsters, citizens’ groups, law enforcement agencies, federal and state safety officials and even some trucking companies argue, sensibly, against expanding work hours beyond the cap the Obama administration instituted in 2013.
The National Transportation Safety Board lists reducing fatigue-related crashes as among its top priorities this year, noting that truck crashes result in 4,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries every year. Driver fatigue is a frequent factor. The NHTSA’s National Automotive Sambling System Crashworthiness Data System crunched data and estimated that 16;5 percent of fatal crashes involved drowsy driving.
Anyone who uses Interstate 80, I-380 or four-lane Route 33/209 is aware of the truck-related carnage that should be everyone’s mission to reduce. Pennsylvania Congressman Shuster, R-9, chairs the House transportation and infrastructure committee. He should vigorously oppose these changes, which industry lobbyists succeeded in getting legislators to slip into the appropriations bills specifically to avoid the public hearings that would be necessary at the committee level. Call Shuster in Washington at 202-225-2431. Ask him which is more important: trucking company profits, or people’s lives?