New trucking rules create more risk: Opposing view

22% decline in truck-involved fatalities between 2003 and 2012, even as trucks drove over 50 billion more miles.

First, let me state unequivocally that American Trucking Associations supports almost all of the hours-of-service rules for professional truck drivers. We support daily and weekly driving limits, mandatory off-duty time, the daily rest break rule, and the concept of the “restart” provision that prescribes rest periods between workweeks.

What we take issue with are limitations on how that restart is used and the process employed to implement those new restrictions.

For a decade, America’s truck drivers delivered the vast majority of our nation’s freight with the ability to restart their workweeks by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off. This simple and enforceable rule contributed to a 22% decline in truck-involved fatalities between 2003 and 2012, even as trucks drove over 50 billion more miles.

In the face of this safety improvement, federal regulators imposed changes in 2013 without doing required research into what would happen if they limited restarts to once a week and required the off-duty period to include two stretches between 1 a.M. And 5 a.M.

In the past year, these changes have put more trucks on the road during morning rush hour, a riskier proposition than overnight driving, according to the government’s own statistics. The changes reduced productivity. And they disrupted many truck drivers’ chosen sleep and duty schedules, leading some to leave trucking. The agency charged with regulating trucking told us these were “unintended consequences.”.

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A Senate committee requested, and we support, a one-year suspension of these restart restrictions while the unintended consequences are studied. That’s how good public policy gets made.

Right now, sensible regulations are languishing. These include rules requiring trucks to have electronic logs, or have their speed electronically limited. This will prevent more crashes than this restart rule. But the agency has focused on a rule that potentially hurts safety.

We ask the government to return to the previously effective restart rule and advance sensible regulations to improve highway safety for all Americans.

Bill Graves is president and CEO of American Trucking Associations.

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