Obama Administration Settles Hours-of-Service Case, Agrees to Start Over on Rule to Keep Tired Truckers Off the Roads

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Obama Administration Settles Hours-of-Service Case, Agrees to Start Over on Rule to Keep Tired Truckers Off the Roads

Court Repeatedly Tossed Out Bad Rule, But Bush Administration Kept Reissuing It

WASHINGTON - The
Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration (FMCSA) have agreed to abandon their defense of unsafe,
longer working hour standards for truckers the Bush administration
issued in 2003. In a settlement of
a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto
Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition and the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters, the agencies agreed to start a new round of rulemaking that
could result in reduced hours of service for truckers.

In March
2009, the groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.,
to throw out the hours-of-service rule for the third time. Twice
before, in 2004 and 2007, the court vacated the rule on the grounds
that the government did not adequately consider the effects of longer
hours on traffic safety and driver health. Nevertheless, the Bush
administration reissued the same rule each time.

The rule
dramatically expanded driving and working hours by allowing truck
drivers to drive up to 11 consecutive hours (instead of 10) each shift
and by cutting the off-duty rest and recovery time at the end of the
week from a full weekend of 50 or more hours to as little as 34 hours.

As a result,
the rule allowed truckers to spend up to 17 more hours driving each
week than previously allowed, a more than 25 percent increase over the
prior rule, despite strong evidence that the increased hours would lead
to more traffic fatalities and serious consequences for driver health.
Today’s settlement requires the government to draft a new proposed rule
governing hours of service within nine months and to publish a final
rule within 21 months.

“We are
pleased that the government has decided to take seriously its
responsibility to protect truck drivers and the public from unsafe
driving conditions instead of bending to the interests of the trucking
industry,” said Greg Beck, the Public Citizen lawyer handling the case.

Added
Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
“Every day, truck drivers fall asleep in their cabs, and all too
frequently the results are catastrophic. Unfortunately, these incidents
and crashes don’t garner the same government attention and action as
airline ilot fatigue. The DOT needs to reform the hours-of-service rule
for truck drivers because longer operating and working hours have
serious health and safety consequences for workers and the public.”

Said
Daphne Izer, co-founder, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.),
whose son and three friends were killed in 1993 in a crash caused by a
tired trucker, “The good news is that there will be a new
hours-of-service rule that hopefully will protect truck drivers and
families like mine. The bad news is that the Obama administration
nominee to lead the federal agency responsible for issuing this new
rule is a trucking industry lobbyist. This nomination puts the trucking
industry in the driver’s seat and will detour any meaningful and
overdue reforms.”

Joan
Claybrook, former president of Public Citizen and chair of the board of
directors of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, said, “There is a
reason that the truck driving profession is often referred to as
‘sweatshops on wheels.’ The Bush administration rule increasing truck
driver hours of service was one of the worst anti-worker and
anti-safety regulations issued these past eight years.  It is time for
the DOT to issue a rule that advances safety interests and not the
economic interests of the industry.”

“We
will continue to push for a rule that protects trucks drivers instead
of the greed of the trucking industry,” said Jim Hoffa, general
president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Longer hours
behind the wheels are dangerous for our members and the driving public.”

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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