Wrong Turn


The spending bill signed into law in late 2014 rolled back hours of service rules for truck drivers, which will make our roads more dangerous for the driving public and could contribute to more health problems for drivers.

“Congress completely disregarded the science associated with people’s internal clocks by getting rid of the safety provisions that had been in place since July 2013,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “We supported the rules that had been in place, but the trucking industry lobbied for the new rules, placing more interest in their bottom lines while endangering the public. Now, everyone will face more danger and carnage on our nation’s highways.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced an amendment last summer to repeal elements of a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rule requiring drivers to get adequate rest. The rules that had been in place required drivers to take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shift. It also required drivers to take a 34-hour “restart” period once every seven days. The 34-hour rest period had to include two consecutive overnights between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. By getting rid of the previous safety rules, the average maximum week a driver can work now jumps from 70 hours to 82 hours.

Walmart Incident

Last June, the Teamsters Union called for a renewed commitment by Congress to protect the hours of service rules after a Walmart truck driver crashed his rig, killing comedian James McNair and injuring three others, including actor and comedian Tracy Morgan. The driver had not rested for 24 hours straight prior to the crash.

“More than 600,000 of our 1.4 million Teamster members turn a key to a truck for a living. The highways and byways are their office,” Hoffa said following the crash. “Naturally, highway safety is important to our union. Every one of our members understands that we must have hours of service rules in place that prevent driver fatigue. A tired driver is a dangerous driver.”

More than 4,000 lives are claimed each year on our highways in accidents involving tractor trailers and the fatal accident last June was the ninth for Walmart’s trucking fleet in the previous 24-month period.

“It is not uncommon for nonunion drivers to feel pressured by their employers to drive well beyond 60-70 hours a week,” Hoffa said. “When drivers ignore the 34-hour restart provision – either by choice or by design – accidents occur.”

Teamster Provisions

However, some Teamsters will be directly impacted by the changes, said LaMont Byrd, Teamsters Safety and Health Director.

“Our contracts with UPS, UPS Freight, ABF and YRC Freight, for example, address the driver fatigue issue,” Byrd said. “However, it is important to our members because our members share the roads with these other drivers who could be adversely affected by the new hours of service rules approved in the spending bill.”

Health Issue

The issue is a safety concern, but there are also serious health implications related to hours of service.

“The safety issue is a big deal, but we have an aging driver workforce and these folks have tremendous health problems and some of it can be attributed to chronic fatigue,” Byrd said. “These longer driving hours will only make those health issues worse in some cases.”

The union will keep fighting to protect our members and the driving public.

“We lost this battle, but we will continue to fight and educate members of Congress about this issue,” Hoffa said. “We strongly believe that changing the hours of service rules was a terrible mistake and it was done in a back-door way through the spending bill, where debate was limited. This is the type of issue that needs lengthy, open debate and that did not occur. But we will keep on pressing this issue for the sake of all Americans, and especially for our members out on the roads who are directly and indirectly affected.”