WASHINGTON, D.C. — The accident involving a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. driver and comedian Tracy Morgan’s entourage has yet another industry organization weighing in about potential hours of service changes.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters sent an open letter to the US House of Representatives saying any steps to “delay, revise or replace the current hours of service 34-hour restart provision” or allow increases in truck size and weight, “especially they size of double trailers from the current 28-ft. to 33-ft.” should be opposed. In particular, the letter cites two potential floor amendments to the Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) FY’15 bill.
The two-page letter, signed by general president of the Teamsters, James B. Hoffa, emphasizes the union’s position that drivers are concerned with safety and adds, “truck driving is a very stressful job, especially with the congestion on our overburdened highway system. Drivers have to be especially alert these days as they have less time and distance to change lanes or stop quickly. It makes little sense, therefore, to shorten even more the time that truck drivers have to rest, recuperate , and get back on the road and to put them in bigger combination vehicles that require greater stopping distances, more difficult lane changes, and longer merging areas to get up to speed with traffic flow.”
The letter continues that most drivers “cherish our weekend, that 48-hour period that lets us relax and tend to personal business. But some motor carriers push their drivers to squeeze every possible hour out of them that they can—60 to 70 hours or more in a wee, depending on their operation—leaving a driver only 34 hours, 14 hours shy of a weekend to restart their clock and get back on the road for another 60 to 70 hours of driving time….Limiting the already short 34-hour restart provision to once every seven days (168 hours) is not unreasonable.”
The letter urges the House to allow the Department of Transportation to conduct a driver fatigue study based on eLog data.
Hoffa adds that allowing double trailer size to increase could “make matters worse”, saying “this undermines a current on-going Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, mandated by Congress…which is intended to examine the effects of bigger trucks on highway safety and on an already aging and deteriorating infrastructure system.”
He also accuses a size increase of pre-empting the efforts of the National Freight Advisory Committee to develop a 10-year National Freight Policy.
In a press release announcing the sending of the letter, Hoffa and the Teamsters address Wal-Mart’s safety record. According to the union, “this most recent fatal accident is the ninth for Wal-Mart’s trucking fleet in the last 24 months. This frequency has raised serious questions about how the retail giant—which has a reputation as a bad actor when it comes to worker treatment—enforces hours of service rules.”
In the announcement, Hoffa states, “The tragic accident that claimed the life of comedian James McNair and injured many others including actor Tracy Morgan, could have been prevented had Wal-Mart’s driver been properly rested rather than reportedly going 24 hours without a break.
“While the notoriety of the victims in this accident pushed truck safety to the front page, more than 4,000 lives are claimed each year on our highways as a result of accidents involving trailer trucks. We must ensure that hours of service rules provide enough rest for drivers so cumulative fatigue doesn’t put the driving public at risk.”
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