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Michael Schafle
Michael Schafle
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Proposed Truck Bill Draws Protests from All Sides

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truck accident injuriesFamilies of truck accident victims, law enforcement officials, and public safety groups joined together on May 13 urging Congress to put the interests of the public before powerful trucking lobbies.

At issue is a bill that extends trucker’s working hours and provides exemptions from current size and weight laws for enormous trucks up to 84 feet long. The provisions put forth by the Transportation, House and Urban Development appropriations bill could be enacted by fiscal year 2016.

Opponents say the FedEx Double 33 proposal puts trucks that are far too big into the hands of drivers who are already too fatigued to operate safely.

“If these industry giveaways are enacted into law there will be oversized and overweight trucks being driven by overworked truckers throughout the country,” said Jackie Gillan, President of advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The economic and emotional cost to families and are economy are staggering.”  Gilan also noted that commercial vehicle accidents, including truck accidents cost more than $99 billion each year.

The Teamsters are also against the new bill, even though it would mean more work and more hours for members. “It’s not about jobs, it’s about safety. It’s about ensuring as safe a workplace for our members who drive for a living as anyone working a job on a factory floor.”

The uproar about the proposed rules come just as comedian Tracy Morgan of Saturday Night Live fame settled his case against WalMart after he was seriously injured and his friend James McNair was killed in June 2014. Morgan’s limousine was struck from behind by a WalMart truck driven by a fatigued driver who had been awake for more than 24 hours and traveling more than 20 mph above the speed limit, according to CNN.

Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers, lost her son in another accident caused by a fatigued Walmart driver who fell asleep at the wheel. “Truck drivers are being pushed beyond physical and mental limits to work up to 82 hours a week, more than double the average work week of most Americans. And truck fatalities are on the rise,” she said in a saferoads.org release.

Those accidents occurred after changes were made to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service rules regulating when drivers can rest. Congress passed a bill in December 2014 that weakened those regulations– specifically required rest periods, Forbes reported.

During the last four years, truck accident injuries have increased by 28 percent and fatalities increased by 17 percent, according to saferoads.org.  Joan Claybrook, Chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways urges Congress to reject this bill and asks the Secretary of Transportation to recommend that President Obama veto any bill that involving anti-safety measures that will cause more injuries and fatalities on our roads.

“Congress should be taking action to improve, not worsen, our infrastructure,” said Office Robert Mills of the Fort Worth Police Department.