This week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a new rule governing the number of hours that commercial truck drivers can drive each day. These are known as the truck drivers’ hours-of-service. What’s special about this new rule? In my opinion – nothing. The so-called new standard is in fact identical to the previous two rules that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down last year and in 2004, according to the Public Citizen, which challenged those ineffective regulations.
The new FMCSA’s rule authorizes truckers to drive 11 consecutive hours with 34 hour restart provisions. Under the rule, drivers may continue to work a physically and mentally exhausting 77 hours behind the wheel of a big rig over a seven-day period. They may then take 34 hours off and then hit the road to start all over again. In addition to all that time they are allowed to drive, they can be required to work 14 hours a day, which includes loading and unloading cargo. This new rule also fails to require electronic on-board recorders that are very much needed to assure that the rule is effectively enforced.
I agree with the safety advocates at Public Citizen. This new rule does nothing to prevent big rig accidents, a large percentage of which is caused by exhausted and distracted truck drivers. This rule will only continue to force truck drivers into putting up with sweatshop-like working conditions. This not only puts big rig drivers at risk and endangers their safety and welfare, but also poses a risk to the public who must share the road with these tired truckers. According to the Department of Transportations truck accident statistics, between 2003 and 2006, the number of annual deaths among occupants of large trucks increased from 726 to 805. Also, 4,584 people were killed in the United States in big rig accidents and about 76,000 were injured in large truck crashes.
The federal rule has basically ignored an entire body of research, which has consistently shown that the risk of a truck crash increases significantly after eight hours of driving. All we can do is add this rule to the body of ineffective, misguided decisions made by the Bush Administration. This administration has been a disaster for consumers and a blessing for big oil companies, auto makers, pharmaceutical companies and corporate CEOs. It is time for the new administration and the new Congress to repair this damage. We need a real change in this country. We need a system that protects and upholds consumer rights and puts people first. We need a system that gives victims a shot at justice and a fair opportunity to hold wrongdoers responsible for their actions.