The length of time that big rig truck drivers spend behind the wheel trying to make it to their destination on time has long been a topic of debate in the trucking industry. Many truckers and activists claim the federal regulations that went into effect in the past four years with the goal of reducing trucking accidents have actually made matters worse. How long truckers can drive, how long they can rest and how they should log their time have fueled debate among safety advocates and trucking companies.
For over 60 years, truckers have been guided by rules that prohibited them from driving more than 10 hours without an eight-hour break and banned them from driving more than 60 hours in a seven-day period. Drivers were required to keep logs of their driving and resting times.
In the late 1990’s, Congress created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to oversee the trucking industry and reduce the annual number of traffic fatalities involving large trucks and buses; it is estimated that 5,000 people are killed in trucking accidents yearly in the United States. The new regulations state that truckers can now stay behind the wheel for an 11-hour period but must rest 10 hours before driving again. Also, truckers can now drive 77 hours in a 7-day period.
For years, drivers have claimed logs are routinely falsified, so there is push now for electronic monitoring devices in trucks that would automatically record drive/stop times. Truckers are not happy about this; one veteran trucker actually had to pull over just 40 miles from his destination because he had driven the maximum of 11 hours already that day. The new law required that he “hang out” for ten hours before driving the last 40 miles of his trip.
One mother, whose son was killed, along with three friends, when a tired trucker fell asleep and rolled his rig over the teenager’s car on a Maine highway in 1993, created Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). Daphne Izer actually sympathizes with the drivers who work long hours, are stuck on docks for hours waiting to be weighed or unloaded and are not getting paid for that lost time.
Although the logs and electronic monitoring devices are efforts to keep truckers rested and safe, the number of truck-related deaths in the United States is not decreasing. We continue to hear stories in the news such as the 46-year-old truck driver with no violations on his driving record who fell asleep as he sped toward vehicles that were slowing for construction on a crowded South Carolina interstate killing a young mother and her 13-year-old daughter.
Clearly something must be done to guarantee the safety of our nation’s truck drivers and the safety of those traveling the highways with them.