Senate Dems want truck provisions out of funding bill

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A pair of Senate Democrats is attempting to put the brakes on changes to overnight scheduling rules for truck drivers that are currently included in the government funding bill now before Congress. 

Lawmakers are debating whether to insert a provision that would ease trucker scheduling regulations designed to prevent driver fatigue into the $1.014 trillion “cromnibus” funding legislation that is being crafted to prevent a government shutdown.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Tuesday that the advocates for truck companies were trying to sneak the changes into the funding bill because they were unable to win approval from the entire Senate earlier this year. 

{mosads}“We are extremely disappointed that despite our grave concerns, this matter is moving forward through the appropriations process, rather than with extensive study and debate. This issue is far too important to have been altered outside of the committee of jurisdiction and without debate by the Senate,” the senators wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). 

The proposal at issue, which was included in an amendment that won committee approval in June, would suspend a current requirement that truck drivers take breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on consecutive nights before they can work again. The measure would also remove a limit on the number of times they can declare the start of a new workday. 

Truck drivers would still be limited to working 70 hours over one week. After reaching that limit, they would have to take an immediate 34-hour break before getting back behind the wheel.

The trucking industry has argued that the overnight scheduling rules have resulted in more trucks being on the road during daytime hours, when traffic is heavier and trips take longer.

Trucker groups also contend the DOT regulations are forcing drivers to take two full days off, in some cases, before they could work again.

Blumenthal and Booker said Tuesday that the rules were developed with academic research about human sleep patterns in mind. 

“The current hours of service rules governing rest requirements for truck drivers are based on years of study and sound scientific research in addition to a review of public comments. They should remain firmly in place,” the senators wrote. 

“In 2012 large trucks were involved in 3,700 accidents with close to 4,000 fatalities and 104,000 injuries,” Blumenthal and Booker continued. “With so many crashes, we should be examining further limitations on hours of service, not suspending the rules currently in place. At the very least, hours of service requirements should not be suspended during further study, but rather maintained until evidence illustrates a change would not pose a threat to public safety.”

Congress is expected to complete work on the government appropriations package this week before they break for the holidays. Current funding expires on Dec. 11. 

The proposed measure is expected to keep all government agencies open through September 2015, except for the Department of Homeland Security. Agencies dealing with immigration policy would only be funded through late winter, likely through February.

Tags Cory Booker Hours of service Richard Blumenthal Truck driver

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