Trucking Safety Advocates Blast Trump Administration’s Hours of Service Rule Proposal

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Safety advocates throughout the nation are blasting the Trump administration’s recent proposal to alter the Hours of Service Regulations that govern interstate commercial drivers, warning that the weakened rules will only increase the risk of fatigue-related truck and 18-wheeler crashes.

Trucker Drove 1,300 Miles Without a Break

“I vowed early on – the first few days – if there was anything that I could do to prevent this from happening to one other family, I would do it,” Linda Wilbur, a board member or Parents Against Trucking, recently told FairWarning.com

Wilber’s son, Orbie, died tragically on September 2, 2002, after an 18-wheeler crashed into the rear of his vehicle at high speed along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma. The 19-year-old was beginning his freshman year in college, and the accident that took his life likely could have been avoided.

The 41-year-old truck driver also died at the scene, and apparently failed to notice traffic had stalled before slamming into Orbie’s car.  A subsequent investigation revealed the trucker had driven nearly 1,300 miles from Bakersfield, California, without taking a break.

FMCSA Hours of Service Rule Proposal

The federal Hours of Service Regulations help prevent fatigued-related truck and 18-wheeler crashes like the one that killed Orbie Wilber. The trucking industry has long sought more “flexibility” on Hours of Service, and for the past two years, has used its immense lobbying power to convince the Trump administration to see things its way.

Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finally proposed altering the Hours of Service Regulations. Among other things, the revised rules would allow long-haul truckers to take a break while they’re on duty but not driving. They would also be able to “pause” the 14-hour on-duty window for an off-duty break of up to three hours, provided they take 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift.

Short-haul truckers would see their driving window expanded from 12 hours to 14 hours, while the radius of short-haul operations would increase from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

While the FMCSA has yet to finalize the proposed changes, few expect the Trump administration to defy the wishes of commercial trucking, one of the President’s biggest boosters.

“The trucking industry has so much money and so many people who can spend their whole career lobbying,” Wilber said. “We’re a handful. It’s hard for us to get the word out.”

Fatigue-Related Truck and 18-Wheeler Crashes

With deadly truck and 18-wheeler crashes already at a 10-year high, Wilber and other safety advocates are warning that the Hours of Service proposal will only increase the likelihood of fatal accidents.

Consider that, in 2006, 65% of truckers responding to an FMCSA survey reported that they often felt drowsy while driving, and just under half admitted to falling asleep at the wheel the previous year.

Although sleeping or fatigued truckers were confirmed in just 60 of the fatal truck and 18-wheeler crashes that occurred in 2017, this type of impairment is rarely noted on police reports. As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes the true number is significantly higher.

“These (proposals) are opportunities for drivers to be pushed to their limits further, to drive without resting,” Harry Adler, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, said in an interview with FairWarning.com. “It’s more opportunity for a driver to operate while fatigued, which is really detrimental.”

Even the Teamsters Union, which represents millions of truckers across the United States, believes the Trump administration is going too far.

“Trucking is already one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs,” the union’s president recently told TheTrucker.com. “We shouldn’t be sacrificing the health and safety of drivers just to pad the profits of their big business bosses.

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