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Teamsters: THUD amendments will weaken highway safety standards

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa says the frequency of Walmart fatal accidents has raised serious questions about how the retailer enforces Hours of Service rules. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

6/10/2014

WASHINGTON  – Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa Monday denounced two potential floor amendments to the Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) FY ’15 Appropriations bill that the Teamsters say will weaken highway safety standards by putting fatigued drivers on the road in bigger, heavier trucks.

In a two-page letter, Hoffa urged representatives to oppose any floor amendments to the appropriations bill that would delay, revise or replace the current Hours of Service 34-hour restart provision or allow increases in truck size and weight.

“The tragic accident that claimed the life of comedian James McNair and injured many others including actor Tracy Morgan, could have been prevented had Walmart’s driver been properly rested rather than reportedly going 24 hours without a break,” Hoffa said. “While the notoriety of the victims in this accident pushed truck safety to the front page, more than 4,000 lives are claimed each year on our highways as a result of accidents involving trailer trucks. We must ensure that hours of service rules provide enough rest for drivers so cumulative fatigue doesn’t put the driving public at risk.”

This most recent fatal accident is the ninth for Walmart’s trucking fleet in the last 24 months, Hoffa noted, adding that he believed “this frequency” has raised serious questions about how the retail giant – which has a reputation as a bad actor when it comes to worker treatment – enforces Hours of Service rules.

“Not all motor carries run their drivers to the limit of their Hours of Service, but it does happen,” Hoffa said. “Drivers feel pressure from their employers to drive more than 60-70 hours a week with insufficient rest. Without a strong voice in the workplace like the Teamsters Union, these drivers are left with no recourse and the resulting fatigue leads to accidents.”

Hoffa’s mention of “bigger, heavier” trucks was a reference to what he called another potential amendment to increase the current 28-foot double trailers to 33 feet.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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