Re­cent roll­back of safety rules for truck­ing may be just the be­gin­ning

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JOAN LOWY AND DAVID DISHNEAU

HAGERSTOWN, MD. | 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 road.

The Amer­i­can 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.

The truck­ing 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.

“Un­for­tu­nately, 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 Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ship­pers and some seg­ments of the truck­ing in­dus­try prob­a­bly also will 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 Clay­brook.

The pro­vi­sion 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.

Truck­ers are 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 a.m. to 5 a.m. 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.

Another reg­u­la­tion that pre­vents truck­ers from work­ing 75 hours, fol­lowed by a 35-hour break, and then re­sume driv­ing again in the same week also was 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.

“Some­times you’re forced to drive fa­tigued be­cause you can’t find any­where to park,” said Mr. Var­nado, who drives for Pro Truck­ing Inc. of Ac­worth, Ge­or­gia, dur­ing a truck-stop break along In­ter­state 81 here.

But self-em­ployed trucker Ge­orge Laf­ferty, 61, of Henry, Illinois, said Congress should re­peal the rule.

“I don’t see how the govern­ment can tell you when to sleep and when not to,” Mr. Laf­ferty said dur­ing a truck­stop 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.”

Be­sides truck 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 manda­tory.

Some in­dus­try of­fi­cials have com­plained the guide­lines go too far and may sti­fle in­no­va­tion. Safety ad­vo­cates say they don’t go far enough.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.