Congress is considering legislation that would roll back truck safety regulations that help prevent deadly crashes. This is happening while truck accidents continue to increase, not decrease. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the number of fatal truck crashes increased by two percent—3,825 to 3,906—between 2012 to 2013.
The recent truck crash that seriously injured actor Tracy Morgan and killed his friend also spotlights the need for tighter regulation. The truck driver at fault in that crash had been working over 13 hours, had been awake over 28 hours, and was speeding at the time of the crash.
Proposed Changes Could Contribute to Fatigued Driving
Despite horror stories of tragic accidents and the statistics that show truck crashes increasing, Congress in considering legislation that would reduce some of the regulations that make truckers safer drivers. The bill is tucked into the pending highway bill, which is stalled due to differences between the House and Senate. Some of these changes include:
- Allowing truck drivers to drive 80 hours per week rather than the 72 hours over eight days that they are currently allowed. They would do this by eliminating the requirement that truckers take a 34-hour rest break before restarting their work week.
- Reducing the minimum age of drivers of large trucks who can drive on interstate highways from 21 to 18.
In addition, Congress has discouraged FMCSA from pursuing wireless technology that would allow better monitoring of truck drivers and their vehicles. They have also shown willingness to allow longer and larger trucks on our roads despite public opposition. The trucking industry is lobbying hard for these changes, arguing it needs longer work weeks and bigger trucks to avoid increasing the number of trucks on the road. However, the statistics on truck crashes suggests this legislation may be harmful for motorists who must share the roads with trucks.
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