This is unbelievable. A U.S. Court of Appeals twice struck down the Bush administration’s regulation giving truck drivers more time behind the wheel. But last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT), a federal agency paid for with our tax dollars, decides to reinstate this regulation, which is controversial because it doesn’t make sense.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) not only brought the regulation back, but in the process increased truck drivers’ Hours of Service (HOS) to 11 continuous driving hours and 88 hours in an eight-day period (http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2007/12/17/073670.html). The new rule significantly increases truck drivers’ workdays by 40 percent, more hours over an eight-day period and allows them to drive 28 percent more hours over the same eight-day time period.
This beats logic because it is a known fact that tired truckers cause a majority of big rig crashes around the nation. These are crashes that mostly result in fatalities or catastrophic injuries and 97 percent of the time, the people in the other vehicle (not the big rig) are the most injured or affected.
Fatigue is known to be a major contributor to fatal truck crashes. The National
Transportation Safety Board and other safety research groups all over the world, have found that nearly 40 percent of big truck crashes are caused by driver fatigue. After 17 to19 hours without sleep, a driver’s reaction time is up to 50 percent slower, which is apparently the same as having a .05 percent blood alcohol level.
Truck safety advocates, mostly a group of victims who have lost their loved ones in these horrific big rig crashes, have been vocal in opposing this ridiculous increase in truckers’ hours of service. Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers that is part of the Truck Safety Coalition (www.trucksafety.org), gave the United States Senate a piece of her mind about the HOS rule.
A transcript of her Senate speech posted on this Web site shows Izer’s17-yearold son Jeff was killed on Oct. 10, 1993 when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his 80,000-pound big rig into the car Jeff and three other teens who were returning home from a hayride.
“I shudder to think about how many fatigued truckers are on the roads right now, during this hearing, due to the unsafe and illegal HOS rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA),” Izer says. “This danger that threatens all motorists is unacceptable and unnecessary.”
It is indeed hard for parents such as Izer and all of us to understand why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency created by Congress to protect us the public, has shown such little leadership in the arena of public safety. According to the department’s own statistics, there are 5,000 fatalities and 110,000 catastrophic injuries caused by big truck crashes across the United States every year. The FMCSA consistently demonstrates its incompetence under the direction of the Bush Administration, especially on the truckers HOS issue.
If people are dying and getting injured when truckers are driving the hours they now are, how does it help to increase those hours? Are they kidding us? Truckers and trucking companies already cut corners and have been known to falsify records on hours of service simply to make more money. The FMCSA must be protecting us, the public. They have been entrusted with our safety, but they sure are not doing a good job of safeguarding that trust. They are ignoring facts, numbers and common sense.