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Truckers Hours of Service Rule Threatens Highway Safety

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“That (DOT) chose in both rules to expand driving hours is astounding given its statutory mandate to make safety its highest priority and Congress’s specific directive to the agency to reduce fatigue-related incidents,” said Joan Claybrook, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

Truck driver fatigue has wreaked havoc here in Wisconsin recently. In October, 2005, a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and his semi-trailer jack-knifed and overturned on the highway near Osseo, Wisconsin. A school bus carrying a high school marching band collided with the overturned vehicle, resulting in the deaths of five passengers, including three from one family.
http://www.startribune.com/484/story/179123.html

According to a 25 count criminal complaint against the driver, he “apparently got little sleep in the 26 hours before a bus crash”.

It seems clear that the folks in charge of the federal agency that is supposed to be protecting us are asleep at the wheel.

Advocates for highway safety are mounting opposition to a federal rule enacted in October 2005 that dramatically increases both the number of hours that truckers may drive without a break and the number of hours truckers may drive per week.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted the rule despite its mandate to protect the public by making safety in motor carrier transportation its highest priority. In a harshly worded decision striking down a nearly identical version of the rule in 2004, a federal court lambasted the agency for the arbitrary process by which it came up with the rule. The new version of the rule is no better, and consumer, labor and highway safety advocates have jointly filed a petition in federal court seeking its invalidation.

Truck accidents due to truck driver fatigue are a continuing problem.

“More than 5,000 people are killed each year in large truck-related crashes and more than 110,000 are injured,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “That FMCSA chose in both rules to expand driving hours is astounding given its statutory mandate to make safety its highest priority and Congress’s specific directive to the agency to reduce fatigue-related incidents. We fully expect the court to find once again that this rule violates the agency’s clear assignment to put safety first.”

Truck driver fatigue has trucking companies may be lowering their hiring standards.
There may be many causes of highway fatalities involving large trucks. However, in the face of the mayhem caused by fatigued truck drivers, it seems clear that the folks in charge of the federal agency that is supposed to be protecting us are asleep at the wheel.