OOIDA's call supporting Collins amendment draws 3,000 comments

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 6/17/2014

OOIDA’s Call to Action that urges Congress to support an amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to roll back last year’s change to the restart provision in truck drivers’ hour-of-service rules has drawn more than 3,000 messages of support from truckers. Meanwhile, other lawmakers and safety groups who oppose the Collins amendment are pursuing action to strip it out of the bill in which it appears.

OOIDA issued its Call to Action on Monday, June 16, pushing back against action that would strip the Collins amendment from the Senate version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.

The Collins amendment received a bipartisan vote of 21-9 in committee on June 5, but since then has attracted pushback from a coalition of safety groups, lawmakers and other trade groups.

On Tuesday, Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined a conference call by safety groups to say they will offer an amendment to strip the Collins amendment from the THUD bill, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

The conference call was hosted by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and featured speakers from Parents Against Tired Truckers, the Teamsters, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Trucking Alliance – a group of large carriers that promote an agenda that includes electronic logging devices and speed limiters.

While the safety groups and others against the Collins amendment refer to the HOS changes implemented in 2013 as “common sense,” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not yet possess the data to say whether the changes are actually working to reduce crashes and fatalities.

In opposing certain provisions in the HOS changes, and supporting Collins on this issue, OOIDA and its members have been accused of being anti-safety and anti-driver by the safety groups. Nothing could be further from the truth, OOIDA leadership says, adding that the HOS changes implemented in 2013 have actually forced truckers to drive when tired by reducing their flexibility to call their own shots.

“At the end of the day, safety is the top priority of every trucking professional on the road, and our members are committed to an environment that focuses on real priorities that make a real difference in the lives of truckers and other motorists out there on the road,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

“We can’t lose sight of our concerns with driver training, safe and secure parking, the condition of our roads, and the fact that drivers of passenger vehicles don’t know how to drive around big trucks. Those commitments to safety by professional drivers should not be lost in any debate about highway safety.”

On Friday, June 13, Collins sent a “dear colleague” letter to fellow lawmakers saying it’s wrong of the media and others to link her amendment to roll back part of the restart provision to the recent crash in New Jersey involving a truck that injured comedian Tracy Morgan.

“To be clear, any commercially licensed driver who gets behind the wheel while knowingly fatigued is breaking the law. To imply that the provision in the bill had anything to do with the recent crash in New Jersey is completely inaccurate,” Collins stated in her letter.

“The bill temporarily suspends two recently implemented provisions within the hours-of-service regulations governing truck drivers,” she continued.

“During this time, the Department of Transportation is required to conduct a comprehensive scientific study assessing the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts of the current restart provision. These new provisions were implemented last year with insufficient analysis on the impacts of potentially shifting additional truck traffic onto our nation’s roadways during peak daytime congested hours.”

Collins pointed out that FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro testified in April 2014 that the FMCSA “did not address or study the impact of large trucks being forced on the road during daytime congested hours.”

The safety groups said in their conference call that the Collins amendment would allow, or force, truck drivers to put in 82-hours of work in an eight-day period. Collins addressed that in her letter, saying her amendment would not change the number of hours a driver can be behind the wheel.

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