Your Nov. 3 Pre-Trip: Truck drivers win religious discrimination suit

Here are five things worth knowing today:

1. Two Somalian-American truck drivers who were fired from their jobs at Star Transport when they refused to transport alcohol because it violated their religious beliefs were awarded $240,000 by a federal jury in Illinois, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC reports that the trial began on Oct. 19, and the jury returned with its verdict the following day after 45 minutes of deliberation. The jury awarded Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. In addition, Judge James E. Shadid awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay. EEOC has more.

2. More than 70 of the nation’s food and agriculture associations – including the American Farm Bureau, American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition, American Soybean Association,  International Dairy Foods Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Grain and Feed Association, and the National Farmers Union – sent a letter urging Congress to include the Safe, Flexible and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act (H.R. 3488) as an amendment to the highway reauthorization legislation, which is expected to go before the full House this week. In the letter, the organizations wrote: “In the agriculture and food industries, our farms and businesses are growing and making products more resourcefully, but outdated federal transportation rules force trucks to leave the farm and our plants when they are partly empty. By giving states the option to raise the federal gross vehicle weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five, the SAFE Trucking Act would safely modernize truck shipments on Interstate highways by reducing the number of trucks needed to move our commodities and products through better utilization of existing capacity.” 

3. The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $25 million TIGER grant to the Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System (TPIMS), according to DOT’s Fast Lane. The TPIMS project includes Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Funding will help selected freight interstates in the region get safe parking information to truckers.

4. According to The Hill, one of new House speaker Paul Ryan’s tests will be passing a long-term highway bill for the first time in decades. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, identified the highway bill as a top priority before he took over as speaker; however, according to The Hill, the highway bill falls under the jurisdiction of multiple panels, including the House Ways and Means Committee, which Ryan left to become speaker. Congress has not passed a transportation bill that lasts longer than two years since 2005. Current funding expires Nov. 20.

5. Ohio state troopers are targeting commercial vehicles during a two-day enforcement operation to reduce crashes on Interstates 70 and 75, The Columbus Dispatch reports. According to the report, officers will focus on violations by commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles traveling around them. They’ll target violations – including speed, following too closely, and improper passing and lane use – likely to contribute to crashes. The Columbus Dispatch has more.

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