Longer Hours, Less Sleep for Contractors Hauling Mail for the U.S. Postal Service Will Lead to More Accidents

Longer Hours, Less Sleep for Contractors Hauling Mail for the U.S. Postal Service Will Lead to More Accidents

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sally Davidow



WASHINGTON – Private contractors that transport mail for the U.S. Postal Service are seeking an exemption from a federal safety rule – an exemption that would increase driving time, reduce rest, and jeopardize motorists and pedestrians, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) said today. The APWU is calling for a public hearing on the proposed waiver, which the union says will jeopardize public safety.

“Private trucking firms are willing to risk safety on the roads so they can squeeze a few extra hours of labor from already-overworked truck drivers,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “This is a dangerous proposal and regulators should reject it,” he said.

The National Star Route Mail Contractors Association, which represents private trucking companies that carry U.S. mail, has requested a waiver of the Department of Transportation’s “14-hour rule.”  The exemption would allow drivers working for the contractors to operate trucks after being on duty more than 14 hours following a break of less than 10 hours.

“Last year people were horrified by the terrible accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan, when his vehicle was crushed by a truck driven by a sleep-deprived driver. The people want the current rest standards enforced, not weakened,” Dimondstein said.

The APWU has requested the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – the Department of Transportation agency responsible for enforcing the 14-hour rule – to conduct a public hearing on the exemption.

“The public deserves to be heard before our government changes a common-sense rule that affects public safety,” said Michael O. Foster, director of the APWU’s Motor Vehicle Service division.

The request to extend drivers’ working hours flies in the face of evidence collected by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which shows that driver fatigue and/or sleep deprivation may be the cause of between 30 to 40 percent of heavy truck crashes. A 2006 DOT study found that 65 percent of truck drivers report symptoms of fatigue while driving, including yawning, drowsiness, and struggling to stay alert.

Nearly 4,000 people died in heavy truck crashes on U.S. roadways in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. Meanwhile, according to Howard Abramson, a former executive at the American Trucking Association, “Congress has been coddling the trucking industry.”

“Many Star Route companies are so small that their drivers are exempt from drug and alcohol tests that U.S. Postal Service drivers must take. “Clearly, this amplifies the danger,” Foster said.

The FMCSA accepted public comments on trucking firms’ request for an exemption to the 14-hour rule at regulations.gov through September 21. More than 170 comments were received, with the overwhelming majority urging the agency to reject the exemption. Some sample remarks:

Jason Kenski: “Is it really worth the risk of lost lives and/or injuries just to make a few extra dollars? Safety should be the number 1 priority for ANY who drives…”

Mike Bates: “The rules were put in place to keep our roads safe no matter what kind of truck you own or what you haul. There is no reason to give these subcontractor[s] an exception to the rule...”

Anonymous: “More than 14 hours after 10 hours off, are these people nuts?”

Cynthia L. Steussy: “[P]rivate contractors hauling USPS mail should be required to follow the rules concerning mileage and breaks taken while on the road. The men and women driving these trucks are still human and they are sharing the road with all of us.”

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The American Postal Workers Union represents 200,000 employees of the United States Postal Service, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. For more information on the APWU, visit www.apwu.org.