Hoffa: Federal Regulators Must Protect Workers' Health And Safety
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa today said federal regulators should put the health and welfare of American truck drivers above the greed of the trucking industry.
Hoffa’s comment came before a hearing on the truck driver hours-of-service rule before the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending.
In 2008, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) signed an agreement with safety advocates and the Teamsters Union to revise the rule. The rule, a “midnight regulation” made final in the waning days of the Bush administration, extended the hours truckers can drive from 10 hours to 11 hours.
According to FMCSA’s own regulatory analysis, reducing driving time to 10 hours would produce a gain of almost 40,000 jobs in the trucking industry.
“We need an hours-of-service rule that creates jobs, protects American workers and saves money and lives,” Hoffa said. “This is a no-brainer. Longer hours behind the wheel may satisfy the greed of the trucking industry, but they’re dangerous for our members and the driving public.”
Fred McLuckie, Teamsters legislative director, said the physical and mental challenges of driving a large truck are even greater now than they were five years ago.
“Our drivers are more stressed than ever because of increased traffic volume, tighter delivery times and deteriorating road conditions,” McLuckie said at a Capitol Hill news conference before the hearing. “Highway congestion requires them to make decisions about braking, accelerating, changing lanes, merging onto and getting off highways more quickly.”
McLuckie said Congress should not get involved in what has been a protracted legal battle to force the FMCSA to issue an hours-of-service rule that’s based on sound scientific data and takes into account the health of the driver.
The percentage of fatal crashes that result from driver fatigue rose 20 percent in 2005 from 2004 – the first year in which the longer hours of driving were allowed.
The Bush rule raised the number of hours truckers can drive from 10 to 11 consecutive hours each shift, and from 60 to 77 hours of driving each week. The rule cut off-duty rest and recovery time at the workweek’s end from 50 or more hours off duty to as little as 34 hours off-duty.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first promulgated the 11-hour rule in 2003, increasing the number of hours truckers can drive. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule in 2004, but Congress reinstated it as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004.
FMCSA issued a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in January 2005, proposing a rule that was little changed from the 2003 rule that had been struck down.
On July 24, 2007, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the second time threw out the rule that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and allowed drivers to go back to work after being off duty for only 34 hours.
In the 39-page opinion, Judge Merrick Garland called the rule “arbitrary and capricious.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was a party in the case, joining Public Citizen and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association.
FMCSA issued the interim final rule on Dec. 11, 2007. The court declined on Jan. 23 to enforce its order to strike the rule, and the Bush administration issued it as a final rule on Nov. 19.
The Teamsters – along with Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition – challenged the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.