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Senate Committee Votes to Relax Rules for Truckers

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Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-9 to rescind portions of the rules that require truckers to take driving breaks between 1:00 and 5:00 a.m. on consecutive nights before they can get behind the wheel again. The amendment would also do away with a rule that limits truckers to declaring only one restart per week. If passed, the provisions of the amendment will be in effect for one year, during which time the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be required to study the effects of the restart rules.

The amendment, sponsored by Senator Susan Collins of Maine, has been sharply criticized by the Obama administration and transportation safety advocates. Collins said she was targeting the overnight rules specifically because they force more truck drivers to be on the road during daytime hours, increasing traffic congestion during the day when it’s actually safer for truckers to be on the road at night.

But her opponents counter that medical research has shown that requiring drivers to rest during that window of time is most effective in reducing fatigued driving. According to government estimates, fatalities involving trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more have risen 18 percent since 2009, and the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that trucker fatigue accounts for 13 percent of those crashes.

Lawmakers have reportedly been under pressure from the trucking industry and business groups to eliminate the 1 to 5 a.m. requirement and the one-restart-per-week limit because the rules resulted in drivers having to take two full days off between shifts, losing wages, and throwing off their delivery schedule, according to thehill.com. The measure will head to the floor of the Senate for a final vote at a later date.