Legislation introduced late Friday in the U.S. Senate calls for truck drivers to be paid by the hour and would increase minimum insurance levels, mandate collision avoidance systems and speed limiters, and study the effects on safety of truck drivers having to drive hours just to get to the start of their workday.

The Truck Safety Act (S. 1739) was introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over truck safety.

“Truck drivers work extremely long days to deliver the goods we depend on and keep our economy moving, but too often this comes at the expense of their safety and the safety of other drivers,” Booker said. “We can significantly reduce the number of accidents on our nation’s highways by harnessing new technologies, and better protect victims of truck accidents by raising insurance minimums for trucks that haven’t changed in over 30 years."

Truck Safety Act provisions include:

  • Minimum Insurance – Would up the minimum levels of insurance carriers must have from $750,000 to $1.5 million. The bill also would increase insurance levels to keep pace with inflation.
  • Collision Avoidance Systems – Would require a rulemaking for commercial motor vehicles to have crash avoidance systems, such as forward collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems.
  • Speed Limiting Devices – Would require the Secretary of Transportation to finalize regulations requiring commercial motor vehicles to have speed limiting devices to prevent speeding. The American Trucking Associations has been calling for such devices for some time, while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes them.
  • Driver Compensation – Would require the Secretary of Transportation to mandate that employers compensate truck drivers for hours worked.
  • Excessive Commuting – Would require a study on the effects of excessive commuting. There are concerns that far too often, truck drivers commute several hours to and from their base of operation.

Many of these provisions appear to address the highly publicized crash last year that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger, in which a Walmart truck slammed into their vehicle from behind on the New Jersey Turnpike. The driver reportedly had been awake for more than 24 hours but was still within his legal driving hours as recorded on electronic logs.

Safety advocacy groups praised the bill. In a joint statement Friday addressing the different trucking bills in the Senate, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and the Consumer Federation of America said the bill "will move the bar to advance commercial motor vehicle safety.

"With total tonnage of truck freight shipments predicted to increase by as much as 63 percent by 2040, requiring advanced crash avoidance technology in trucks is crucial," the groups noted, also praising the speed limiter requirement.

 

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