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Groups Challenge Dangerous Rule That Dramatically Increases Working Hours for Professional Truck Drivers

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety * Public Citizen * Truck Safety Coalition * International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Dec. 18, 2008

Groups Challenge Dangerous Rule That Dramatically Increases    Working Hours for Professional Truck Drivers

Federal Safety Agency Sticks to Sweatshop Rule Despite Two Court Decisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government should reconsider a seriously flawed regulation that can compel professional truck drivers to work and drive 19th century sweatshop hours, four major safety organizations said today. The groups – Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, the Truck Safety Coalition and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – filed a petition for reconsideration today with the administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In a “midnight” final rule published on Nov. 19, FMCSA ignored two court decisions that have been issued since 2003. The first decision found that the agency had not adequately taken driver health into consideration. The second decision vacated the two provisions of FMCSA’s revised 2005 final rule that raised the limits for daily and weekly driving and on-duty hours. Although courts have twice ordered the agency to reconsider the rule, FMCSA has re-issued virtually the same rule after each court order.

The final rule, which will take effect on Jan. 19, the last day the current administration is in office, allows truckers to drive up to 11 hours in a single shift, while driving 88 hours or working 98 hours over eight consecutive days.

“Under this rule, companies can force interstate truck drivers to work and drive grueling hours that are unheard of in other U.S. workplaces in the 21st century,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen and former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “These trucks are rolling sweatshops.”

“FMCSA simply disregarded scores of studies conducted over more than 30 years showing that this incredibly demanding working and driving schedule will lead to exhausted truck drivers who literally can fall asleep at the wheels of their rigs,” said Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “This final rule is utterly irresponsible and has been issued in open defiance of the court’s findings in back-to-back decisions.”

Added John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, “FMCSA has issued a regulation that just doesn’t care about the health and safety of truck drivers, much less anyone else sharing the road with them. The agency attempted to justify this bankrupt regulation by manipulating the enormous body of facts and science that clearly shows that truck drivers, like other workers, cannot perform safely day after day, week after week, under these incredible working schedules. This rule threatens the personal safety of everyone on America’s roads.”

The petition asks FMCSA to reconsider the regulation based on numerous errors and misrepresentations of research findings clearly showing that much longer working and driving hours will inevitably produce severely fatigued drivers who also can suffer serious health problems from excessively long working hours.

“Congress created FMCSA on Jan. 1, 2000, to make trucking safer, but the Bush administration used the agency to make it more dangerous,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “FMCSA was so eager to carry water for the trucking industry that it ignored mountains of scientific evidence that driving longer hours increases the risk of a crash.”