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CT Sen. Stands With Teamsters, Opposes Larger Trucks and Shorter Driver Rest Periods

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

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Speaking at a press conference, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called out special interests who are pushing for larger trucks on major highways and lax hours and service rules. He agrees with truck driver advocates that these are dangerous policy changes.

Blumenthal was joined by highway safety advocates, families of highway accident victims, and representatives of the Teamsters.  Using his position on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Blumenthal will be spending the week dealing with the FY 2016 transportation appropriations bill.  Narrowly passed by Congress earlier this month, the House version of the bill (HR 2577) includes riders that would lead to drivers spending more time behind the wheel between rest periods.

Speaking about the importance of proper rest periods for drivers, Teamsters representative Fred McLuckie said in a statement:

“More than 600,000 of our 1.4 million members start their workday by turning a key in a vehicle.  The road is their workplace, roads that are congested like never before. It is irresponsible to allow larger, heavier trucks on our highways while potentially allowing employers to keep drivers on the road for more than 80 hours a week.”

McLuckie added that he believes special interests pushed for the proposed changes.  He said that if HR 2577 passes, 39 states would be forced to allow 33-foot double trailers on their highways and that hours and service rules would remain permanently rolled back, which would eliminate the once-required 34-hour restart period for drivers:

“These special interest provisions put profit before safety.  The families here today lost loved ones due to driver fatigue and oversized trucks. We owe it to them to fight against these dangerous and irresponsible proposals.”

The issue of rest periods and highway safety became a mainstream issue last year when actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in an accident with a tractor trailer. Morgan was seriously injured and comedian James McNair was killed.  Following the accident the driver of the WalMart truck admitted to authorities that he had not slept in “over 24 hours.”  Wal-Mart recently settled with Morgan for an undisclosed amount.  

In the leadup to the appropriations, Senator Blumenthal has taken on the issues of highway safety and called for a long-term surface transportation bill.  Blumenthal suggests that the government should create a plan for “robust infrastructure investment”: 

“The federal government now spends about $40 billion annually on roads and highways, yet the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration estimate that our country needs $170 billion in annual capital investments to ensure our roads are in reliable condition.  States and municipalities cannot make up that shortfall, so it’s critical that the federal government assert a strong role in transportation and provide them with the resources they desperately need.”

There is nothing optional about long-term action in Blumenthal’s eyes:

“It is crucial that the bill cover many years.  States and local governments need the certainty that comes with a five or six-year reauthorization measure…when states are given true certainty, they hire more workers, which is essential in the construction industry as it has a joblessness rate nationally hovering at 10 percent.”


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