Washington, DC – April 25, 2016—This week the United States Senate began deliberations on a new budget for the Department of Transportation. Though the purpose of the bill is to fund both the Department of Transportation and HUD, there are provisions in the budget that are deeply troubling to groups lobbying for safer roads.
Groups opposing the bill point to several key provisions that indicate capitulation to the trucking industry, and increase the risk of accidents. The most controversial provision changes the current calculation on hours of service restarts for drivers.
Current rules state that drivers are required to take a 34 hour break once they reach their hours of service cap for a seven day period. The break reduces driver fatigue, the leading cause of semi truck accidents. The new bill would permanently roll back hours of service restarts to pre-2011 levels, a decision which significantly reduces the downtime between restarts and eliminates mandatory 30 minute breaks for long-haul drivers.
The trucking industry and its lobbyists argue the reduction in restart periods is vital to maintain profitability for trucking companies and higher wages for drivers. Profits for trucking companies have remained flat since the start of the Great Recession, despite the recent drop in the price of diesel. If trucking companies are unable to increase the turnover rate of their trucks through more frequent deliveries, American Trucking Associations believe there will be a collapse of the transportation industry.
Henry Queener, a semi truck accident lawyer in Nashville, sees proposed changes to the hours of service in the Department of Transportation budget as a clear step in the wrong direction. “We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of fatal semi truck accidents, as well as continued increases in the economic cost of accidents. Putting tired drivers on the road, and encouraging drivers to miss hour of service restarts, will make all of our roads a lot less safe”.
The budget debate is certain to be contentious, especially after the trucking industry suffered setbacks with proposed speed limiters and a Congressional refusal to increase the size and weight of trucks.