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Labor leaders: Pump the brakes on relaxing trucker safety rules

OLYMPIA (April 1, 2020) — Unions representing truckers and other supply chain workers are urging Gov. Jay Inslee to reject industry efforts to relax safety standards amid the coronovirus outbreak, calling it a “sweeping attempt at deregulation” that endangers workers, the public, and the environment.

In a March 31 letter to the governor, Teamsters Joint Council 28 President Rick Hicks and Washington State Labor Council President Larry Brown urged the governor to reject requests by the Washington Refuse and Recycling Association (WRRA) and the Association of Washington Business (AWB) to suspend labor and environmental standards amid the COVID-19 crisis. The WRRA has asked the governor to waive hours-of-service limits on commercial truck drivers, extend landfill hours, and waive local environmental ordinances. The AWB has asked him for similar waivers, plus to relax truck weight restrictions, allow triple trailers, and suspend local ordinances limiting hours of deliveries.

“While we must collectively do what is necessary to combat the public health emergency presented by the spread of COVID-19, we must not aggravate the urgency of our situation by compromising the safety of Washington State residents and truck drivers,” wrote the labor leaders.

The U.S. Department of Transportation studied truck size and weight laws and recommended against relaxing such standards because of the dangers it would pose to the public, particularly regarding triple trailers. Hicks and Brown say “AWB’s proposal would put the longest and inarguably most dangerous trucks on our secondary roads which were never designed to handle big rigs.”

The union leaders said that these are all deregulation proposals that industry lobbyists have sought for years, but have been rejected because of the threat they would pose to trucking and sanitation workers — and to the general public.

In its request to Inslee, the AWB wrote that the COVID-19 outbreak calls for “swift and effective action from all of us.”

“We couldn’t agree more,” wrote Hicks and Brown. “It is our job to help ensure we are serving the needs of fellow Washingtonians and leading the way to recovery from this pandemic, but we are not going to do that by compounding our public health crisis with deregulation that will only result in less stringent safety requirements and, consequently, more harm.”

Read the entire letter to Inslee.

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