Will Roads Become Less Safe if New Truck Driving Hours Law is Passed?

The nation's trucking industry is once again seeking to put profits before people. And the U.S. Congress may comply.

On July 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation enacted new "Hours of Service" rules for the trucking industry. The rules limit the number of hours a commercial truck driver can work to likewise limit the number of tired truckers on the road. It has been shown that fatigued truck drivers are dangerous.

The new rules include:

• A commercial truck driver can work no more than 70 hours per week

• Drivers who hit the 70-hour mark must take at least a 34-hour break before starting a new work week. This 34-consecutive-hour period must include two overnight periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Predictably, the trucking industry is not happy and has been fighting the new rules ever since they were enacted. Their primary argument? The limitations are hurting their bottom lines. This despite the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that the new rules will prevent some 1,400 trucking accidents a year.

Three U.S. congressmen have introduced a bill that would put a stop to the 34-hour break rule until another federal government review of it is conducted. Never mind that the rule was originally passed following months of public hearings and in-depth investigations.

Further still, the proposed law states that the investigation can take up to a year and the 34-hour break rule cannot be re-implemented until six months after the investigation is submitted to Congress for its review. The authors of the bill cite economic concerns, echoing the trucking industry's arguments that saving lives and preventing accidents are not worth the potential financial expense.

The 2007 "Large Truck Crash Causation Study" conducted by the FMCSA is an exhaustive look into why commercial trucking accidents occur. The findings show that driver error is by far the leading cause of fatal and serious injury truck crashes, and truck drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel are responsible for a significant number of those catastrophic accidents.


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