The trucking industry scored a major win recently when Republican lawmakers blocked Obama administration safety rules that were aimed at keeping fatigued truck drivers off the highway. But, the Associated Press reports that there is more to come. The American Trucking Association is pledging to come back next month and try to block state laws that require additonal rest breaks for truckers beyond what federal rules require.
This most recent rollback in trucking regulations is causing a lot of concern among safety advocates that this might signal the start of more rollback of transportation safety regulations, especially with a Republican-majority Congress whose members tend to take the side of the trucking industry. Some of the other rules that might get reversed include increasing the weight limit on trucks to more than 90,000 pounds and increasing the length of individual trailers in double-trailer combinations from 28 feet to 33 feet.
Changes in Hours-of Service Rules
Current law states that the trailers in single-trailer trucks can be up to 53 feet, but trailers in trucks with two trailers currently cannot be more than 28 feet. Safety advocate Joan Claybrook says this is a dangerous trend because the industry is more concened with cost of delivering goods, not about the safety of the traveling public. Legislators are now suspending regulations issued by the Obama administration requiring truck drivers to take two nights off to rest if they take only the minimum break before starting a new workweek.
Truckers are required to take at least a minimum 34-hour break before starting a new work week. But the trucking industry has objected to the requirement that the 34 hours include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The suspension of these rules means truck drivers can get on the road again during those early morning hours if the 34-hour break has elapsed. Yet another rule that prohibits truck drivers from using the 34-hour break to start a new workweek twice within a seven-day period has also been suspended by lawmakers.
Driverless Car Rules Also to Come
Other transportation laws such as those involving driverless cars could also be affected by the new congress, AP reports. Auto and technology industries are lobbying Congress to steer clear of developing mandatory guidelines for driverless cars saying that these rules would “stifle innovation.” Safety advocates say they are concerned about Congress pre-empting the states without strong federal safety standards for driverless cars.
They say states should be able to make the final call on whether automated vehicles should be allowed on the roads. As truck accident lawyers who represent the rights of injured victims and their families, we will be following the actions of legislators and would hope they keep the safety of consumers and the traveling public before they get rid of lifesaving laws or put new ones in place that could prove dangerous.