The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Consumer, Safety and Labor Groups File Brief to Overturn Bush Administration Midnight Rule on Truck Driver Hours of Service

Obama Administration Poised to Defend Unsafe, Anti-Worker Bush Rule


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, the Truck
Safety Coalition and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters late
Thursday filed the initial legal brief
in the third round of litigation seeking to overturn the longer truck
driving and work hours the Bush administration imposed in 2003.

In the petition, the groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia to overturn the hours-of-service rule issued Nov.
13, 2008.

The Bush hours-of-service rule increased the number of daily and
weekly hours truckers can drive to 11 consecutive hours (instead of 10)
each shift, and up to 17 hours more driving (77 hours instead of 60)
each week. The rule dramatically expands driving and work hours by
cutting the off-duty rest and recovery time at the end of the week from
a full weekend of 50 or more hours off duty to as little as only 34
hours off-duty.

In addition, the Bush administration failed to consider the health
and medical consequences of letting truckers drive and work
substantially more hours. In the current case, even though the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) agrees that drivers may pay
a cost in terms of their health and well-being, FMCSA rejected
consideration of this serious problem in the benefit-cost analysis.

The groups have previously won unanimous decisions from two separate
panels of the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., in 2004 and
2007, only to have the Bush administration defiantly impose the same
rule each time. The Court of Appeals, in each decision, lambasted the
FMCSA for its lack of reasoning and failure to provide essential
information to the public.

"FMCSA is supposed to protect truck drivers and the public from
unsafe driving conditions," said Greg Beck, the Public Citizen attorney
handling the case. "Instead, it only protected the trucking industry.
The court should reject this rule once and for all and force the agency
to do its job."

Added Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and
Auto Safety, "This rule was identified by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as
one of the Bush administration's harmful midnight regulations affecting
Americans. Safety groups agree. Issuing a new hours-of-service rule
should be a top priority of the new leadership at the Department of
Transportation. Almost 5,000 people a year are killed in truck crashes,
including more than 650 truck drivers. Fatigue is a major problem in
the trucking industry, and this rule only makes it worse."

Joan Claybrook, former president of Public Citizen and chair of
Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), a member of the Truck
Safety Coalition, said, "The Bush-era hours-of-service rule treats
truck drivers like sweatshop workers. There is no justification for
defending this rule that has been unanimously overturned twice in the
federal courts. The rule puts industry cost savings ahead of public
safety and employee protection."

"It's time to put the health and safety of our truckers ahead of the
interests of the trucking industry," said Teamsters General President
Jim Hoffa. "Drivers can be forced to work dangerously long hours under
the current rule."