Federal rules designed to keep long-haul truck drivers in the United States awake and alert at the wheel, which were relaxed by an administration committed to deregulation, returned to the spotlight again on December 2 in an article published in the New York Times. In the debate before the changes were made, ideological arguments drowned out warnings about the risks.
The warnings are well supported. Ergonomics research shows that fatigue increases the risk of accidents and decreases efficiency and productivity.
The Times article was the first in a series about the impact of President George W. Bush’s deregulation strategy, which has repealed enforcement or completion of hundreds of federal rules.
Reviewing the history of trucking regulations, the Times explained that federal officials proposed tighter rules for service hours in 2000 that would allow long-haul drivers to work a maximum of 12 hours a day, and require them to take 10-hour breaks between shifts. The proposed rules also required installation of electronic devices to replace driver logs.
When the Republican administration took control in 2001, according to the Times, regulators rejected the tightening proposal and did the opposite, relaxing the rules on how long truckers could be on the road.
The article related one incident where a truck driver who had worked in the cab nearly 12 hours, eight of them driving nonstop, hit a car and killed its driver. It describes trucking as America’s most treacherous industry, as measured by overall deaths and injuries from truck accidents. The fatality rate for truck-related accidents remains nearly double that involving only cars, safety and insurance groups say.
And the remaining curbs on drivers