Once Again, Dangerous Truck Provisions Quietly Make Their Way Through Congress

Last December I highlighted a stealthy move by the trucking industry to have its friends in Congress slip provisions into a stop-gap funding bill that were good for the industry but bad for Oregonians and the rest of America. Not content with that victory of profits over public safety the industry is now at it again, according to The New York Times.

An editorial published in the newspaper this week warned that “Republican lawmakers have attached a long industry wish list to an appropriations bill that will be voted on in the House in the coming weeks.” Last December’s measure suspended rules governing how much rest the drivers of large trucks need to get each week. The new measure, if it becomes law, will make it very difficult for President Obama or his successor to lift those ‘temporary’ rule suspensions.

Meanwhile, other parts of the bill “would allow trucks to carry longer trailers across the country, make it harder for the Department of Transportation to require drivers get more rest before they hit the road and forbid the department from raising the minimum insurance it requires trucks and buses to carry. The insurance levels have been in effect since 1985,” according to the paper.

As it did the last time around, the industry is reported to be defending these proposals with claims that defy common sense. As I noted last year, the industry’s argument for allowing it to force drivers to drive more hours on less sleep was that this would improve safety by decreasing the number of trucks on the highways. In a similar vein, the Times reports, one of the new measures “would allow trucks to pull two 33-foot-long trailers.” This compares with the current federal limit of two 28-foot-long trailers. The trucking industry says “this will improve safety, because it will result in fewer trucks on the road. But that is not believable because part of the industry’s motivation is to take business away from the railroads… In fact, there is good reason to worry that longer trucks will be less safe simply because trucks with multiple trailers are more unstable and take longer to stop than other vehicles,” the Times writes.

As an Oregon and Washington semi-truck accident lawyer I’m once again disappointed to see our legislators acting in this way, and can only hope that these proposals never become law. Our focus should be on improving safety for everyone on America’s roads. One element of that is sensible regulation of semi-trucks, the cargoes they haul and the rules designed to protect the people that they share the road with.

 

The New York Times: A foolish attempt to weaken truck safety