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New Rules for Truckers Debated

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under pressure from consumer safety groups and the Teamsters union, may suggest rule changes for how truck drivers operate. Advocates for the changes contend that any losses suffered by the trucking industry will be gained in reduced truck accidents. Opponents counter by suggesting that the new rules force truckers to drive during the hours of the day where more cars are on the road. They say that restricting early morning hours will put more truckers on the roads during rush hour, when collisions are most likely to occur. The latest draft of the proposal is currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The changes would require truck drivers to take a minimum of 34 hours of down time at the end of a work week, which would include at least two stretches from midnight to 6 a.m. Currently, the 34 hour period can end at any time of day. One career truck driver pointed out that the likely effect of the proposal is to have a large number of trucks pour onto the roads at exactly 6 a.m., just before rush hour begins in most populated areas. It restricts the ability of the truck drivers to avoid traffic by starting earlier.

The purpose of the restriction is to reduce the number of exhausted truck drivers on the roads. Starting at 2 a.m. might help a driver avoid traffic, but it also increases the likelihood that the driver is tired. Driver fatigue is a commonly cited cause of truck crashes. Both groups agree with the goal of reducing the number of semi truck accidents. They disagree over whether these safety measures are an effective way of accomplishing that goal.

The debate over trucker safety will continue as long as there are fatal truck accidents. Every motorist is at risk when a truck driver is forced to drive while fatigued. If these measures can reduce the number of accidents and make the roads safer for everyone, the government should strongly consider adopting them.

Source: Gaston Gazette, "Trucking, safety groups play chicken over new rules, "Ragan Robinson, 8 November 2011

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