During a period when semi-truck crash fatalities exploded past 4,000 for the first time in seven years, legislation could sneak past Congress that would allow more fatigued truck drivers on the road.
The scenario occurs as lawmakers return to Washington on Monday to debate a bill to keep the federal government open after the current continuing resolution expires on Dec. 9. Lobbyists for the trucking industry will be attempting to use this must-pass funding bill to attach policy anomalies that have nothing to do with funding, but have everything to do with rolling back, weakening and repealing truck safety protections, says the watchdog group, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
The “tired trucker” provision being pushed by trucking industry lobbyists seeks to repeal a requirement for drivers to take a 34-hour break once a week – including two stints between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Never mind the threat to public safety that shows:
• 4,067 people killed in large truck crashes during 2015 — the highest number since 2008 and a 20-percent increase since 2009.
• 111,000 people injured in 2014, the highest number since 2005, and a 50-percent increase in five years.
These are frightening figures. If anything, Congress should be taking action to improve driving and working conditions for truck drivers.
For the sake of all motorists, Congress cannot fall asleep at the wheel as the special trucking interests troll the hallways of Capitol Hill attempting to strip the safety protections. Their efforts come a month after the National Transportation Safety Board included fatigued driving on its Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements.
America is most vulnerable to special interest groups during this short period of time between the legislators’ Thanksgiving break and Christmas recess.
Congress needs to be awake.
Private profits should never be put above public safety.