Wal-Mart’s Sweatshop-on-Wheels Amendment Withdrawn in House but Battle Not Over as Highway Bill Moves to Senate

March 9, 2005

Wal-Mart’s Sweatshop-on-Wheels Amendment Withdrawn in House but Battle Not Over as Highway Bill Moves to Senate

Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

We are gratified that Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) today withdrew the Wal-Mart amendment during House floor debate on the highway bill. This inhumane measure would extend the allowable workday of truckers from 14 to 16 hours – the equivalent of two full workdays for most Americans – and would lead to more fatigued truckers on the highway and more danger to American motorists. For truckers, this would amount to two months of extra work each year, with no extra pay. Truck driving already is the most dangerous occupation in the United States. Almost 5,000 people each year die in crashes involving big rigs.

But this important safety battle is far from over. The sweatshop-on-wheels provision could be added to the highway bill in the Senate or it could be tacked onto the bill in a House-Senate conference committee. We have heard reports that Senate offices are being deluged with requests to enact this abusive measure.

The proper venue for establishing hours-of-service standards for truckers is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is in the midst of revising these rules after the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the agency had failed to take driver health into consideration when it enacted new standards in 2003. Congress should not interfere with this process.

Americans want and deserve safe highways. Lengthening the workday for truckers is abusive to them and threatens public safety on the highway.

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Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook was administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977-1981.