Senate bill mandates driver duty-time pay, doubles insurance

Senate bill mandates driver duty-time pay, doubles insurance

Just a couple of days after raising a ruckus about truck safety in a Senate subcommittee hearing, and about year after trying to block the hours-of-service restart rollback on the Senate floor, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced legislation containing a list of items “to modernize truck safety standards,” ranging from equipment mandates to operations management.

According to the summary and commentary provided by Booker’s office, the Truck Safety Act (S. 1739) provisions address:

  • Minimum insurance. Increases the minimum levels of insurance trucks must carry from $750,000 to $1.5 million. Insurance minimums have not been raised since the 1980’s and the current amounts do not provide adequate compensation for victims. The bill also increases insurance levels to keep pace with inflation, and gives the Secretary of Transportation discretion to raise minimum levels if deemed necessary.
  • Collision Avoidance Systems. Requires a rulemaking for commercial motor vehicles to have crash avoidance systems, such as forward collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems. The National Transportation Safety Board found that these advanced systems are critical to preventing rear-end collisions, thus saving lives and reducing injuries.
  • Speed Limiting Devices. Requires the Secretary of Transportation to finalize regulations requiring commercial motor vehicles to have speed limiting devices to prevent speeding. Safety advocates have estimated that the rule could prevent more than 1,000 fatal crashes.
  • Driver Compensation. Requires the Secretary of Transportation to mandate that employers compensate truck drivers for hours worked. Unfortunately, standard industry practice is for truck drivers to be paid based on miles driven and not hours worked, causing truckers to be overworked which creates perilous safety conditions on the nation’s roads.
  • Excessive Commuting. Would require a study on the effects of excessive commuting. There are concerns that far too often, truck drivers commute several hours to and from their base of operation, only adding to the grueling schedules many of them already work.

“Truck drivers work extremely long days to deliver the goods we depend on and keep our economy moving, but too often this comes at the expense of their safety and the safety of other drivers,” Booker said in statement. “We can significantly reduce the number of accidents on our nation’s highways by harnessing new technologies, and better protect victims of truck accidents by raising insurance minimums for trucks that haven’t changed in over 30 years. The Truck Safety Act will protect all drivers and make our nation’s highways safer.”

Booker is the top Democrat on the Commerce committee’s transportation subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over truck safety. The full committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday on the Senate’s proposed highway bill, a six-year program that contains a number of trucking-related provisions.

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