(AP) - The trucking industry scored a victory this week when Republican
lawmakers effectively blocked Obama administration safety rules aimed at
keeping tired truckers off the highway. But there’s more coming down the
Trucking Associations is pledging to come back next month, when Republicans
will control the White House and Congress, and try to block state laws that
require additional rest breaks for truckers beyond what federal rules
require. The group says there should be one uniform national rule on work
hours for interstate truckers.
industry’s latest triumph has caused concern among safety advocates that it
may signal the start of a broad rollback of transportation safety
regulations once there’s no longer a Democratic president to check the
tendency of Republican lawmakers to side with industry.
it’s going to be an open season on safety in this coming Congress,” said Jim
Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board during the
Shippers and some
segments of the trucking industry probably will also push for long-sought
goals of increasing the weight limit on trucks to more than 90,000 pounds
and increasing the length of individual trailers in double-trailer
combinations from 28 feet to 33 feet, safety advocates said.
“It’s going to be
very tough because the companies really care about the cost. They don’t care
about the safety no matter what they say,” said safety advocate Joan
Republicans added to a must-pass government spending bill this week suspends
regulations issued by the Obama administration requiring truckers to take
two nights off to rest after a work week of up to 75 hours.
required to take a 35-hour break after at the end of a work week. But the
trucking industry objected to requirements that the 35 hours include two
periods from 1 am to 5 am. Sleep scientists say rest during the early
morning hours is critical for people to feel refreshed. The suspension means
truckers can head out on the road again during those hours if the 35-hour
break has elapsed.
that prevents truckers from working 75 hours, followed by a 35-hour break,
and then resume driving again in the same week was also suspended.
Truck driver Bill
Varnado, 66, of Dallas, Georgia, said he likes the sleep requirement because
it ensures that drivers are well-rested. He said it’s hard to find places to
sleep in one’s rig on the road, so drivers sometimes keep going.
forced to drive fatigued because you can’t find anywhere to park,” said
Varnado, who drives for Pro Trucking Inc. of Acworth, Georgia, during a
truck-stop break along Interstate 81 here.
trucker George Lafferty, 61, of Henry, Illinois, said Congress should repeal
"I don’t see how
the government can tell you when to sleep and when not to,” Lafferty said
during a truck-stop interview along Interstate 81 after dropping off a load
of yeast at a livestock-feed plant.
“A driver should
know when he’s fatigued or not,” he said. “If you’re fatigued, take a
half-hour, hour nap.”
safety, Congress is also likely to be asked to deal with a wide range of
other transportation safety concerns.
The auto and
technology industries, for example, are telling Congress that they fear a
“patchwork” of state safety laws will hinder the deployment of self-driving
cars. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials have
developed voluntary guidelines for the safe design, development, testing and
deployment self-driving cars that they want automakers to follow. But
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles wants to make the guidelines
officials have complained the guidelines go too far and may stifle
innovation. Safety advocates say they don’t go far enough.
"We think it would
be completely inappropriate for Congress to pre-empt the states without
strong federal safety standards in place for automated vehicles,” said
William Wallace, a policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and
mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.
“States are the
ones that make the final call on whether automated vehicles should be
allowed on the roads,” he said. “We think citizens of those states have the
right to take action to keep their roads safe."