Just Before Tracy Morgan Was Critically Injured, These 21 Senators Voted to Weaken Highway Safety Rules
About 39 hours before Saturday morning's tragic crash that killed comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair and critically injured Tracy Morgan and several others, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-9 in favor of an amendment by Senator Susan Collins that would weaken the current regulations on how much rest truck drivers would have.
Those rules, which were finalized by the Obama Administration in December 2011 and took effect in July 2013, represented some progress, but were largely a disappointment because they were weakened from an earlier version after heavy lobbying from the trucking industry. The rules required more rest for truckers, but failed to restore a decades-old requirement that truckers could drive no more than 10 hours per day -- leaving in place a Bush Administration policy that allows 11 hours per day. As Henry Jasny of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety told Bloomberg News at the time, "This is a breach of promise of making safety the No. 1 goal of the agency and the Transportation Department .. It’s more than disappointing."
Flash back to Susan Collins' amendment: It would weaken even the 2011 rules, undoing two of the rest requirement provisions for a year. The committee attached it to a spending bill in that 21-9 vote last Thursday; the Tracy Morgan crash happened early Saturday morning. Prosecutors allege the truck driver involved had not slept for 24 hours, which by itself was legal. Fatigue was likely a cause of the crash, though it's hard if not impossible to know for certain.
The Tracy Morgan tragedy has cast a negative light on Collins effort, and it's now gotten far more attention -- e.g. articles in the Huffington Post and Bloomberg and a segment on NBC Nightly News, along with terrific editorials in USA Today ("The full Senate and House ought to have enough sense to leave it [the current rule] alone") and the Baltimore Sun ("the prospect of putting more such [fatigued] drivers on the road ought to motivate the House and Senate to strike down this dangerous amendment…)
So who were the 21 Senators who voted for Collins' amendment? I haven't seen anyone report the names, and the committee doesn't post the roll calls on individual amendment votes, but gave me the list when I called. All 14 Republicans and 7 Democrats voted for it (9 Democrats voted against). Below, meet the members who voted for weakening even the weak trucker rest rules we have today.