Heavy-Spending Trucking Industry Pushes Congress to Relax Safety Rules

Big players in the trucking industry are abuzz about the potential loosening of restrictions on drivers, much to the dismay of safety advocates. Truck crashes cause nearly 4000 fatalities in the U.S. each year, a number that has increased 17% since 2009; injuries have increased by 28% in the same time frame.

The proposals represent a trucking industry wish list, ranging from the allowance of longer and heavier trucks to younger drivers. Supporters insist that the proposals will actually improve public safety by cutting the number of trucks on the road. On the contrary, safety advocates say that the proposals would enrich the trucking industry and not protect the public.

Some of the proposed changes include:

1. Raise the top weight of big rigs, including cargo, from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds

2. Give states the ability to lower the minimum age of 21 fro interstate truck drivers, putting drivers as young as 18 behind the wheel

3. Effectively eliminate a requirement that truckers who work long weeks spend two consecutive nights resting before heading back on the road

4. Halt efforts to revise 30-year-old minimum requirements for insurance for big rigs.

5. Remove safety ratings of trucking firms from the Internet, where they are now available for public inspection.

While it is unclear how many, if any, of the proposals will get approved, it is clear that the measures have gained traction after aggressive campaigning across the industry.

Data shows that campaigns have pushed 70% of the $19.6 million that they've spent to Republicans.

The President of Advocates fro Highway and Auto Safety, Jackie Gillan said, "We have special trucking interests pushing legislation that will result in overweight, oversized trucks being driven by overworked, underage truck drivers that are inadequately insured. All this with the backdrop of truck crash deaths and injuries climbing significantly and steadily."