Dec. 19, 2007

Bush Administration Trucking Rule Disregards Courts, Puts Lives At Risk, Public Citizen Tells Senate Subcommittee

Public Citizen, Safety Advocates Ask Court to Compel Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to Set Aside Dangerous Rule  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Bush administration rule allowing truckers 11 hours a day behind the wheel imperils both truckers and the driving public, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, shortly before the consumer group asked a federal court of appeals to enforce its earlier decision striking down the rule.

Public Citizen’s court action is necessary because of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) blatant disregard of the July court decision, Claybrook told a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee.

“FMCSA is asleep at the wheel when it comes to truck safety, particularly in how it ignores tired truckers,” Claybrook said.

Public Citizen and other safety advocates have sued successfully two times in the past three years to overturn the FMCSA rule, most recently in July when a federal court ordered the FMCSA to come up with a new rule.

However, the interim rule issued last week by FMCSA is identical to the one vacated in the summer. It allows trucking companies to force drivers to spend seven consecutive days on the road with only a 34-hour break before they must get back behind the wheel. That could force truckers to drive 88 hours in an eight-day period.

The Bush administration has created a “sweatshop on wheels” for truckers and is ignoring glaring statistics that show 5,000 people a year are killed in crashes involving large trucks, Claybrook said. Another 110,000 are seriously injured each year in those crashes.

Public Citizen, along with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed its motion Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Drivers must have a ‘weekend’ like most other American workers to recover from the exhaustion of driving long hours, to spend time with family and to enjoy some life outside of the truck cab,” said Claybrook, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1977 to 1981.

Also testifying before the Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security subcommittee was Daphne Izer of Lisbon, Maine, who founded Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) after a tractor trailer driver fell asleep at the wheel and killed her teenaged son Jeff and three of his friends.

Other family members of crash victims attending the hearing to oppose the interim trucking rule were:

  • Jane Mathis of St. Augustine, Fla., whose son David and his wife of five days, Mary, were killed while driving home from their honeymoon on Interstate 95 near the Kennedy Space Center by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel;
  • Ron Wood of Washington, D.C., whose mother, sister, three nephews and five others were killed in a crash caused by a tired trucker on U.S. Route 75 in Texas;
  • Beth Bandy of Somerville, N.J., whose father was killed two days before Christmas 2004 in a crash involving a trucker who fell asleep at the wheel on a Georgia highway; and
  • Larry Liberatore of Severn, Md., whose son Nick, 16, was killed in a crash involving a tired truck driver on I-95 near the Maryland-Delaware border.

LEARN MORE about truck safety.

READ the lawsuit.

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