The trucking industry has voiced concerns about its ability to attract qualified drivers in recent years. It has also argued that federal regulations are threatening to make commercial trucking too expensive for consumers. Among the federal regulations it has worked hardest to prevent are those restricting the number of hours a driver can operate his or her vehicle in a given time period. Trucking companies may have found a way to loosen those restrictions this week.
The year-end spending bill is a place for many seemingly out of place measures to be added. Odd provisions make their way onto these bills as members of Congress make themselves useful to special interests. The trucking industry has convinced at least one Senator to attach a provision that would increase the hours truck drivers are allowed to work from 70 per week to more than 82. If an 82-hour work week sounds like a dangerous invitation to drowsy driving, you are not alone.
The primary complaint about the hours of service rules is that it forces truck drivers onto the roads during busy periods, rather than allowing them the freedom to get started before most drivers are up. Mandating a 34-hour break, including consecutive periods in the early morning hours meant that truck drivers were leaving at 6 a.m., rather than at 3 a.m. Traffic might be heavier, but the idea was that the driver would also now be rested enough to drive safely.
Determining how much driving is safe is not simple. Studies may differ on the appropriate amount of rest to ensure that a driver is sharp. The rules need to reflect our best efforts to determine safe limits.
Source: The New York Times, “More Drowsy, Overworked Truck Drivers,” by Dorothy J. Samuels, 9 December 2014