California Tanker Drivers Battle Over Hours of Service
August 22, 2000
As new hours of service regulations are being debated at the federal and state levels, a bill was recently offered in the California Legislature seeking to increase the hours that gasoline tanker drivers could drive in one day.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the California Trucking Assn. sponsored the bill, which would have increased from 10 to 12 the hours that gasoline tanker drivers could work in a 24-hour period. Other intrastate truckers in California are allowed to drive up to 12 hours of their 15-hour on-duty shifts.
The Senate Transportation Committee shelved the measure earlier this month for further study, but it could come up again in next year's legislative session -- and safety advocates aren't happy about the possibility. They contend that an increase in hours would put California motorists at greater risk for accidents involving gasoline tankers.
"It's insane and it flies in the face of research," Michael Scippa, executive director of the notoriously anti-truck group Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, told the paper.
Scippa added that although tanker truck crashes represent a small percentage of large-truck accidents, these crashes often involve rollovers, deadly fires and explosions, and gasoline spills.
Assemblyman Brett Granlund, a former truck driver, who authored the measure, disagrees. "I believe this bill will increase safety because it will give a driver more time to resist fatigue," he said. "Instead of being pushed, the driver won't feel the need to speed."
The Times reported that Granlund says the measure would strengthen public safety because the two-hour increase would apply only to empty tanker trucks. Loaded tankers would still have to abide by the 10-hour limit.
According to Warren Hoemann, vice president of the California Trucking Assn., the California Highway Patrol has allowed gasoline tankers to drive 12 hours a day as long as they are empty for the last five years, something that did not compromise truck safety.
The CTA decided to sponsor the Granlund bill in March when a state administrative law judge ruled that the CHP's practice did not comply with state statutes.
According to Hoemann, whether the bill is brought back depends on the outcome of the federal legislation as well as the November elections, and how many supporters the trucking industry has left in the Legislature.