Trucking Industry Uses Zika Concerns to Weaken Safety Regulations
On May 19, the Senate passed a bill that provides funds to fight the spread of Zika virus in addition to provisions for transportation, housing and military construction projects, and the Veterans Administration. Inexplicably, this bill also contains a provision that further deregulates the trucking industry: the bill establishes a 73-hour weekly driving cap for commercial truckers, with an additional 8.5 hours per week allocated for other work-related tasks — effectively allowing them to work more than 80 hours per week.
This bill is the latest in several attempts to override 2013 legislation that set a 70-hour per week cap on truck drivers’ working hours and mandated that drivers rest from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on consecutive nights. That legislation briefly went into effect before Congress included a rider blocking it as part of the 2014 spending bill that prevented a government shutdown.
The new trucking provision in the Zika prevention bill continues a disturbing trend: The trucking industry is capitalizing on “must-pass” legislation to insert deregulations measures that go against the advice of leading trucking safety advocates.
At Truck Wreck Justice, we represent the injured victims of trucking accidents and we understand their pain and suffering — which is why we advocate for safer trucking practices and common-sense regulations at the state and federal level.
Our founding attorney Morgan Adams practices with a sole focus on large truck and bus crashes, and his experiences in this challenging field have taught him that truck drivers are already cutting corners in the face of grueling work weeks and intense pressure to meet demanding deadlines.
This new legislation will only further these problems when our lawmakers should be taking steps to combat them and make our highways safer for all types of drivers.
Profits over Public Safety
Trucking industry spokespeople continue to insist that there is no connection between drivers’ workloads and transportation safety — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For example, Dave Osiecki, the American Trucking Association’s public advocacy spokesperson, said in an interview about the 70-hour weekly driving cap: “We just don’t see a need for it.”
This position from the trucking industry runs contrary to the conclusions of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which states that truck driver fatigue is “a leading factor” in the nearly 4,000 deaths that occur each year in crashes involving large trucks.
“The best science tells us that [allowing some truckers to work as many as 82 hours per week] is unsafe and will put lives at risk,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx wrote in a post on the USDOT website in December 2015.
While the White House has threatened to veto the current bill because of its trucking regulation rollbacks, the bill will likely avoid a veto due to the Zika prevention provisions. Democratic senators at one point attempted to remove the language related to Zika but were prevented from doing so by the Republican-dominated Senate.
In voicing his opposition to the bill, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, “We need to make truck drivers, in effect, more safely empowered on the roads to take steps to protect themselves . . . Drivers who spend too much time behind the wheel are tired. They can’t drive as safely.”
Contact the Truck Wreck Justice Team If You’ve Been Injured
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a large truck or bus, please contact the Truck Wreck Justice team at Truck Wreck Justice today to schedule a free consultation. To do so, either complete this simple form or give us a call at (866) 580-HURT.
During your consultation, we can discuss the incident in question and determine your legal options. Statutes of limitations do apply, so please contact us today.
Foxx, A. (2015, December 8). Why we care about truck driver fatigue. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/fastlane/why-we-care-about-truck-driver-fatigue
McAuliff, M. (2016, May 19). Congress is using Zika to Weaken Truck Safety. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/congress-zika-truck-safety_us_573cfc0ae4b0646cbeec1b89
Zanona, M. (2016, April 20). Safety advocates slam plan to allow longer work hours for truckers. The Hill. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/277045-safety-advocates-slam-senate-plans-to-set-work-hours-for-truckers