Editor's note: The following is an edited version of Thompson's comments at an hours of service hearing earlier this summer. Jeff Foster Trucking is a small- to medium-sized fleet based in Superior, Wis. Foster's moving testimony, which garnered applause, was not pre-written but was given off the cuff based on some scribbled notes.
Thank you very much for hearing the comments from all the concerned people here. I'm sure they are going to be screaming bloody murder, but really what I came to talk about is safety.
First, I want to talk a little bit about the economic impact. I'm just going to spend very little time on it. I could not really expand on what people have already said. But I do approve of many of these comments, and let me just highlight those.
The trucking industry is already struggling with the fuel costs and the new EPA regulations that dramatically affect our fuel mileage and rising interest rates. The goal of the DOT with these regulations is to reduce deaths by 115 a year. We're really dealing with about 3/10 of a percent of the annual number of deaths on the highway. And we're basically going to lose about 20-40% of our productivity. Every life is very, very important. But is the cost to the people who are in this industry worth it? Only you can answer this. The rules would require us to add 20 to 40% more trucks and drivers on the road - assuming we could find drivers, which is highly unlikely. Is it really going to be safer on that road? Would you feel better about your family?
Say you're a driver and you're going to be putting in your mandatory "weekend." Would you do it in LaVerne, Minn., or Minneapolis? In LaVerne, they roll up the sidewalks at 5:00, and you can't get a hamburger, you can't wash your clothes, you can't take a hot shower. In Minneapolis, you've got a pretty good change that you can do these things. Does that mean I'll be hanging out at that truckstop and waiting?
And when I finally get back on the road at 7 a.m. with the thousands of other drivers doing their jobs, can you imagine the outraged public when they are stopped in traffic for maybe another half hour, because of all the trucks hitting the road at the same time? Trucker are going to be backing into buildings in metropolitan areas to deliver their products. They used to go in there at 4 a.m., but now they'll have to go in after seven (after a mandatory "weekend.")
A driver is going to lose 20 to 40 percent of their income, depending on what class driver they are. With these "weekends" away from home, when he does get home, all he'll do is drop off his dirty clothes, get a warm meal and get back on the road. He won't be able to afford to stay home. Instead they'll spend their weekend in LaVerne, Minn.
We really need to deal with the shortage of parking spaces. Our current shortage will only get worse under the new regulations, when we add two days a week in which trucks have to be parked. The government needs to be able to deal with that, and remember, rest areas are not the solution. You can't get a hot meal, you can't get a hot shower, you're going to be there a few days.
Small trucking firms such as I represent, less than 200 trucks, will fail in droves. Safety is very important to all of us, but we need to be able to survive. We need to have rules that we can work within to provide better safety. These rules, in my opinion, do not. You need to go back to work.
Please do everything you can to improve safety, but do not, do not strike the economic strength of this country.