Sen. Cory Booker, (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation that would order fleet owners to pay their truck drivers for hours worked rather than miles driven, increase the minimum insurance levels, mandate speed limiters and crash avoidance equipment, and study the effects of excessive commuting for truck drivers.
Called the Truck Safety Act (S. 1739), Sen. Booker — who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure — claims the bill will “modernize” truck safety standards and make the nation’s highways safer.
“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,” Sen. Booker said. “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 said provisions of the Truck Safety Act include:
Driver Compensation – Requires the Secretary of Transportation to mandate that employers compensate truck drivers for hours worked. Booker argues that the standard industry practice is for truck drivers to be paid based on miles driven and not hours worked, causing truckers to be overworked. He said that creates perilous safety conditions on the nation’s roads.
Minimum Insurance – The bill increases the minimum levels of insurance trucks must carry from $750,000 to $1.5 million. Booker said insurance minimums have not been raised since the 1980s 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 NTSB 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.
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.
Booker claims that each year, there are nearly 4,000 people killed and more than 100,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks. “Despite overall decreases in fatalities on our highways, truck fatalities have remained relatively stagnant,” Booker said in a statement released late Friday.