Revision note 12/10, 5:30 a.m.: Sadly Congress passed the Appropriations Bill last night while I slept. Complete with Senator Collins’ language to roll back truck safety. Read below and you’ll understand some of what the American people lost. It’s devastating.
How many of you remember the story by Dr. Seuss titled Horton Hears a Who? It’s the story of a whole world of people living on a spec of dust who must make a glorious and loud noise to prove their existence. That’s how I feel right now as those of us associated by tragedy to the Truck Safety Coalition fight to remove an amendment to the Appropriations Bill that will increase the allowable hours a professional driver can drive each week from 70 to 82 hours. The Appropriations Bill has to come up for a vote in the next couple of days and if the language is still included when that happens much of the work we’ve done over the past several years to require professional drivers to get adequate rest will be lost.
We are desperately trying to make enough noise to be heard.
I’ll try to keep this brief as I know during the holidays no one wants to spend a lot of time reading and thinking about things as serious as death and injury. As wrenching as grief. And most of your know my family’s story; dad was killed by a tired trucker on December 23, 2004. In two weeks it will be ten years. For nine of those years we’ve been fighting the battle, trying to get a safer Hours of Service Rule issued by the Department of Transportation. Finally, last year the new rule was mandated. It wasn’t everything we wanted. We wanted the maximum daily number of hours that a driver could drive to be reduced from 11 back to 10, and we lost that fight. But at least the new rule required drivers who had maxed out their weekly allowable hours of work to rest for two consecutive nights. The two nights of rest piece wasn’t just pulled out of a hat. There’s all sorts of scientific evidence that the human body needs certain kinds of rest in order to be fully functional, and two nights in a row helps to maintain the body’s rhythm.
As soon as the rule came out the American Trucking Associations attacked. And they helped Senator Collins from Maine to write the Collins amendment which would repeal this mandated two nights of rest. It’s basically the only step forward we’ve made in years of fighting, and this amendment would put us back to square one. It allows shippers and supervisors to once again push a driver to work up to 82 hours every week. That’s twice as many hours as you and I, or most Americans, work. And truck drivers don’t get paid overtime.
A recent poll showed that the majority of the American public is opposed to increasing truck driver hours. They know about the dangers of fatigued driving. The opposition to the legislative efforts to increase the allowable hours is across all demographic and political groups. If the majority of people oppose increased driving hours, then why is Congress so set on letting the two nights of rest be repealed?
Because the ATA financially supports their political campaigns.
And that’s why we absolutely need to make a louder noise. Right now. We need every Senator contacted tomorrow and again the next day if the vote on the Appropriations Bill hasn’t occurred. We need every Senator to know that we oppose the Collins Amendment being included in the bill. The Collins Amendment has nothing to do with appropriations and it has never been debated on the Senate floor. It was worked out in a closed door committee meeting and slipped into the bill as if it was a done deal.
Well it’s not done. Not yet anyway.
Please call your two Senators. Tell them you are against the Collins Amendment being in the bill. Tell them you want our roads to be safer and you expect them to stand up for safety rather than cave to expensive truck lobbyists who’s agenda is profit over safety. You can find your Senator’s phone #’s here. And if you’d like to read more, go to the Truck Safety Coalition website, or directly to a letter from two Senators who oppose the amendment. If you’d like to know more about Senator Collin’s motivation, read Joan Claybrook’s statement.
This didn’t turn out to be the short, poetic heart-tugging blog I intended. But it’s so important and there’s no short way to explain what’s happening in Washington DC right this very moment. I can’t explain the politics of it any more than I can fully explain the grief of losing a family member suddenly, tragically, needlessly.
Please don’t think of this as my issue, my problem. The safety of our roads is everyone’s issue, everyone’s problem. It’s only by all of us banding together and making that glorious, loud noise that we will be noticed. Please help me make that noise. Make that noise as early as you can tomorrow. The Senate offices open at 9 a.m. Let’s make those phone lines sing. You can call later in the day too. Just please call.
The roads don’t belong to the ATA. They belong to all of us. And we deserve to garner as much attention as a paid lobbyist. We deserve to get more attention. We’re the ones that voted these Senators into their offices and they should be paying attention to us. We are here. We are here. We are HERE! Say it with me now. WE ARE HERE! And Senator Collins – we are not going away.