Feb. 24, 2003
DOT Agrees to Issue Long-Overdue Truck Safety Rules
Agency Settles Lawsuit with Safety Groups by Promising to Issue Congressionally Mandated Protections
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has agreed to issue a series of vital truck safety rules to settle a lawsuit brought by safety advocates last fall. The agency had failed to meet congressional deadlines for issuing the safety rules but has now agreed to issue the rules within the next year and a half, beginning with a rule on drivers’ hours-of-service this spring. Other rules relate to such key issues as hazardous materials, background checks for drivers and training requirements for multi-trailer rigs.
Safety advocates filed suit in November 2002 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia because the DOT had missed deadlines set by Congress to address safety issues by as much as 10 years. The groups who sued are Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) and Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
“The DOT should have issued these rules years ago when Congress told them to. It’s unconscionable that it has taken a lawsuit to compel the agency to do its job,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “But under this settlement, DOT must issue these key safety standards by June 2004, and our highways will be much safer as a result.”
Added Randi Baun, executive director of CRASH and P.A.T.T., “Each year more than 5,000 people die in truck crashes and over 130,000 are injured. These long-overdue but critically needed federal rules will keep unsafe trucks and unsafe commercial drivers off the road and lives will be saved. This agreement means that the American public will be in the driver’s seat and not the trucking industry.”
Under the agreement the DOT has agreed to issue final rules pertaining to:
- Truck driver fatigue and required rest periods, hours-of-service and other fatigue-related issues. The DOT estimates that 755 fatalities and 19,705 injuries result from fatigued drivers each year on U.S. roads, but the agency is now nearly four years late in issuing the rule. The DOT has agreed to issue this rule no later than May 31, 2003.
- Minimum training standards for entry-level drivers of commercial motor vehicles. Congress required DOT to issue a final rule by Dec. 18, 1993, more than 10 years ago. DOT has promised to issue a final rule by May 31, 2004.
- Minimum training requirements for drivers of longer-combination vehicles (multi-trailer rigs). Congress had set a Dec. 18, 1993, deadline for a final rule. DOT has agreed to issue a rule no later than March 30, 2004.
- Requirements for authorization to transport hazardous materials. The DOT is more than 11 years late in issuing this rule, which has security implications highlighted by the 2001 terrorist attacks. The agency has promised to issue this rule by June 30, 2004.
- Background checks for new commercial drivers, including what information prospective employers are required to obtain and what information prior employers are required to provide. This rule is now four years late. DOT has agreed to issue the rule no later than March 30, 2004.
The groups will partially stay their lawsuit pending DOT’s rulemaking proceedings. If the agency fails to meet any of the deadlines it has agreed to in the settlement, the groups will be able to go to court to enforce the deadlines.
“The DOT’s legal violations were so blatant and the safety issues so pressing that the court would have had compelling legal grounds for forcing the agency to act,” said Marka Peterson, a lawyer with the Public Citizen Litigation Group, which prepared the suit. “We’re pleased that the agency has agreed to not delay these rules any longer.”