A broad coalition of interest groups, including highway-safety, law-enforcement and public-health advocates, is lobbying Congress “to oppose any special interest anti-truck safety riders including changes to the truck driver hours of service rules that would jeopardize the safety of truck drivers and the motoring public.”
That’s per an April 18 letter sent by the chief executives of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as well as the leaders of 13 other advocacy groups to the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has begun crafting the Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations funding bill.
The coalition of groups wants no HOS-related policy riders — especially regarding the 34-hour restart reforms – to be attached to this latest THUD bill.
Congress had suspended the 34-hour restart requirements pending submission of a study by the Department of Transportation on whether or not the more restrictive provisions provided “a greater net benefit for the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts.”
The requirements were to be suspended until DOT submits its final report to the House and Senate appropriations committees. However, the bill that forced the restart rollback law is silent on what will happen when the study is done. Presumably, if it shows that one restart version provides a greater net benefit than the other, then the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will adopt that provision as part of the rule.
But suspending the more restrictive rules did not sit well with some.
“The last two appropriations bills included special-interest riders opposed by safety groups, law enforcement, truck drivers, truck crash victims and the Office of Management and Budget that suspended two important safety provisions in the HOS rule,” the coalition states in its letter.
“These political maneuvers evade the regulatory process, disregard the congressional committee of jurisdiction and ignore federal agency and public input,” the writers continue. “This attack on truck driver HOS rules is just the latest in the insatiable attempts of certain trucking interests to advance their economic agenda regardless of the human cost to public safety.”
The coalition argues that the changes made to HOS rules in 2013 “required truck drivers with the most grueling schedules to take two consecutive nights off during the 34-hour restart and to use the 34-hour restart only once a week. These reforms were adopted because truck drivers were using the restart to work significantly more hours and truckers acknowledged that they were driving while fatigued.”
While conceding that “the pre-2004 [HOS] rules were not perfect,” the coalition contends that “they did not promote greater driver fatigue to the same degree as the current rule, which suspends both the two consecutive nights of rest as well as the once-a-week use of the 34-hour restart.”
Just last week, the same committee was admonished by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA),the influential Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, to not include any provision in the THUD bill that would prevent states from enacting their own meal and rest break rules for CDL drivers.
Boxer went so far as to call such a measure “a poison pill,” which if included in the THUD bill, “would end any chance of the bill moving swiftly in the Senate.”