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Federal Government Aims to Undermine Truck Safety Rules

February 25, 2016

The federal government should be taking steps to try to make the roads safer and to try to prevent truck accidents in Illinois. Instead, based on legislation which has passed and which has been proposed, it actually appears as if the government is trying to undermine road safety and increase the number of truck accidents which occur.

Federal Laws Could Threaten Legislation Aimed at Preventing Truck Accidents

In December of 2015, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act was enacted, This Act was a consolidated must-pass budget act which was supposed to address government funding.  Within the Act, however, a provision was included suspending the enforcement of a 34-hour restart rule. The 34-hour restart rule had been promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) in an effort to fight drowsy driving truck crashes.

The rule was after a trucker had driven 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days, the trucker had to take a 34-hour rest break which ran consecutively. The drivers were supposed to be required to have at least two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM included in their rest break. In other words, after a long workweek, truckers were expected to take some time off and get some sleep during the normal sleeping hours.

When this rule was suspended, however, it once again was left up to the discretion of the trucker and trucking company regarding when breaks should be taken. This can lead to problems because truckers may not get overnight rest.

Now, federal lawmakers are once again trying to undermine safety rules aimed at preventing truck collisions from occurring. Richmond Times Dispatch indicates there is language buried in an aviation bill which is aimed at preventing individual states from mandating trucking companies schedule more generous rest breaks for drivers. In other words, if states want to pass laws imposing more requirements on trucking companies to provide break for workers, the federal government is actually going to prevent them from doing so.

There are currently laws in 22 states which require longer or more frequent meal breaks or request breaks than the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) general requirements. Illinois is one state which imposes its own requirement related to rest breaks, mandating a 20 minute break after five hours in any situation where the employee will work for at least seven 7.5 hours.

The federal government tried to pass language in the transportation bill pre-empting state laws but the provision was taken out at the time. It is now back, and opposed by safety groups who indicate it will force truckers to continue driving when they are tired or hungry.  Obviously, this sets up a dangerous situation where truckers are more likely to cause accidents if they are not being given time to rest and recharge.