July 26, 2000
Underscoring the Clinton administrations commitment to safety as its top transportation priority, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today urged a House/Senate conference committee to support two Clinton-Gore administration initiatives to improve highway safety -- reducing to .08 percent the allowable blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers and permitting a rulemaking process to continue that addresses fatigue and the hours truck and bus drivers can safely work.
"As President Clinton has said, Congress this year has the opportunity to pass the most significant legislation to save lives on our nations highways since raising the drinking age to 21 -- making a .08 alcohol level the law of the land," Secretary Slater said. "In addition, allowing us to move forward on our hours-of-service rulemaking will help prevent many deaths and injuries on our roads that result from commercial truck and bus driver fatigue."
The U.S. Senate version of the transportation appropriations bill contains the BAC measure but adds a provision blocking the U.S. Department of Transportation from continuing its rulemaking process on hours of service for drivers of commercial trucks and buses. Secretary Slater urged the conferees to retain the Senate provision on BAC and reject the provision prohibiting the department from further review of the antiquated, 60-year-old hours of service regulations.
Secretary Slater noted that of the 40,000 deaths occurring on our nations roads every year, almost 16,000 are alcohol-related. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have adopted .08 BAC laws and subsequently experienced reductions in the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.
Secretary Slater announced a proposed hours-of-service rule on April 25. The proposal would assure adequate opportunity for rest time so that truck and bus drivers can operate safely. More than 750 deaths annually are associated with driver fatigue. The comment period on the proposed rule ends Oct. 30, 2000, and the review process, if not interrupted, should result in an updated rule by the summer of 2001.
Since the proposal was issued, the USDOT has been engaged in an active dialogue with interested parties and the public, and has received about 50,000 comments to date and held eight public hearings. With the support of Congress and the time to carefully analyze the comments and data received by the end of the comment period, the USDOT plans to develop a rule that is practical and enhances safety.
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