Texas Teamster Stands Up For Truck Rules Before Senate


Teamster William “Jack” Dawson knows a lot about being a truck driver. He’s been one for 32 years, the last 15 at UPS Freight in Dallas. In fact, he is a shop steward for Local 745 in Dallas and serves as a safety trainer for new employees, post-accident drivers and annual trainings.

So when it comes to trucker safety, he’s an expert. That’s why he was invited to Capitol Hill in July to testify before a Senate subcommittee. He says safety on the nation’s highways will be compromised if the current “hours of service” rules setting limits on when and how long truck drivers can be on the road are altered.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has proposed changing the rules governing the number of hours that truck drivers are allowed on the roads and mandating overnight rest periods. Dawson told lawmakers that would be a mistake and lead to additional casualties.

“Without this limitation, drivers’ hours can be increased from the current 70 to more than 80 hours a week—twice the 40-hour work week,” he said. “And the 34-hour restart is 14 hours short of a normal weekend that most people have off to rest and tend to personal business. Imagine returning to work Sunday afternoon rather than Monday morning.”

It was a completely new experience for Dawson, who had never even been to the nation’s capital before. But he said it was important for lawmakers to hear from real drivers who live with the consequences of laws passed in Washington.

“They definitely do not understand how this change would affect the drivers and the industry,” he said, adding that the current rules “are where they are to protect drivers.”

The Teamsters are part of a coalition of public safety advocates and truck crash victims who oppose a congressional effort to gut rules governing roadway safety. Included in that is a flawed U.S. Department of Transportation study examining the impacts of increasing federal truck size and weight limits.

The trucking industry is attempting to push through changes that would force 39 states to allow longer trailers. Joan Claybrook, consumer co-chair at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said Congress shouldn’t be loosening the rules at a time when accidents caused by trucks are killing each week as many people as a commercial airline crash.

“You need to take steps to improve truck safety,” she told members of the Senate Commerce’s surface transportation and merchant marine infrastructure, safety, and security subcommittee. “The death toll caused by truck crashes and the transportation crisis that results should never be tolerated by our elected leaders or the Department of Transportation.”

Public polls show that a large majority of Americans oppose bigger, heavier trucks sharing the road. Nearly 4,000 people are killed and 100,000 injured in truck crashes each year.