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A change in truck safety policy

The trucking industry was successful in blocking the implementation of new safety rules aimed at combating drowsy driving. The American Trucking Associations further indicated that are planning to push Congress to stop the states from passing laws regulating truck driver fatigue. They hope that the change in leadership following the latest election will leave Congress more amenable to regulations restricting the right of the states to act independently. The ATA believes that a single, uniform rule should govern the entire country when it comes to hours of service in the trucking industry.

Drowsy driving and hours of service regulations

Critics of the new rules claim that they limit driver flexibility, which can cause more harm than good when it comes to safety. Some simply believe that the rules are unnecessary and that individual truck drivers are capable of determining when they are too tired to continue driving. Advocates point to studies on the value of rest during early morning hours to support the proposed restriction forcing drivers to refrain from driving for two 1 am to 5 am periods during the mandatory 35-hour break after a work week. 

Hours of service rules are an imperfect solution to drowsy driving. While they can restrict a driver's hours, they cannot force that driver to sleep. Commercial drivers, like many others, face challenges to getting sufficient sleep. Drowsy driving is a problem on the rise among all drivers. Still, many see these restrictions as the only way to prevent employers from pushing drivers too hard. The financial pressure drive past the point of safety is undeniable in the interstate trucking industry.

Dire predictions

Some safety advocates suggest that deregulation will lead to a number of trucking safety initiatives going by the wayside. Trucking companies may soon push for an increase on the weight limit of trucks and on the maximum length of trailers allowed in double-trailer combinations. These changes may not come to pass. Even if they do, there may be no discernible impact on truck accidents. Advocates for safety and representatives of truck accident victims will be watching closely to see if industry changes lead to more injuries or deaths caused by 18-wheelers.

Source: CBS News, "Rules to curb sleep truck drivers are breaking down," by AP, 8 December 2016 

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Brian Jensen

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