July 19, 2005
Groups Call for Investigation Into FMCSA Meeting With Trucking Industry Regarding Last-Minute Amendments to the Highway Bill
Industry Representatives Reportedly Met to Plot Strategy to Undercut Pending Rulemaking on Hours of Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four organizations are calling for an investigation into a recent meeting between the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and trucking industry representatives to strategize how to thwart the current rulemaking process regarding hours of service rules.
The groups believe the July 14 meeting was designed to plan amendments to the pending highway bill (H.R. 3) that would undercut federal law requiring health protection for truck drivers and amend hours of service rules by counting daily break time as off-duty time (i.e., “off the clock”) rather than as on-duty time (“on the clock”). This proposal would extend the length of the driver’s workday to 16 hours and was withdrawn on the House floor because of major opposition.
In a letter sent today to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and the Trauma Foundation said such a meeting would have “a significant impact on the integrity of a federal agency and the conduct of official government business.”
Federal law prohibits appropriated federal funds from being used, directly or indirectly, to pay for actions intended or designed to influence in any manner a member of Congress. Further, holding such a meeting to discuss matters that are the subject of a pending agency rulemaking could implicate agency personnel in official misconduct, the groups said. Private meetings between agency officials with stakeholders regarding substantive issues of pending rules at the very least violate both the Administrative Procedures Act and Department of Transportation regulations, and could constitute an ethical violation, the groups said.
The highway bill contains the country’s highway and transportation priorities and funding and is currently being negotiated by a conference committee, which is expected to finish its work as early as this week. Sneaking in last-minute changes that were not passed by either the House of Representatives or Senate is unconscionable, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said. To read a copy of the letter, click here.