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Truck drivers: New rules increase fatigue, accidents

Owners of semi-truck operations in North Carolina and other states will soon be affected by new safety regulations governing their activities - and they are not happy about it. The legislation, designed to prevent truck accidents because of sleep deprivation, will limit truckers' ability to do their jobs, they say, sacrificing efficiency for only modest gains in traffic safety.

Truck drivers may, indeed, be suffering under new safety regulations, some of which can actually put a one-truck operation out of business. A shocking 46 percent of surveyed drivers say they are also more fatigued since the implementation of the new safety rules, and more than half say they have lost income. This is because the hours-of-service rules take away a significant amount of flexibility that allowed truckers to reach their destinations sooner, sometimes by avoiding traffic at peak hours.

Instead of implementing rigid restrictions for driving hours, truckers say that the industry and government regulators should instead focus on driver training. Truck drivers say that they are safe and responsible enough to properly operate their vehicles without the new rules. Many drivers say they are restricted from taking the shorter breaks that they prefer - 15 minutes every two hours instead of a block of 30 minutes every four hours - which ultimately leads them to feel more tired. Research supports the fact that short, frequent breaks are just as effective as longer breaks at preventing crashes and fatigue.

U.S. transportation officials have a difficult task ahead, as they work to evaluate the economic and safety ramifications of these new rules. Another alternative bill has been proposed that would eliminate the new hours-of-service provisions until other organizations can study their full impact.

The most important consideration for everyone involved in this matter is, of course, the safety of all drivers on American roads. Legislators must weigh the actual effectiveness of these rules against truckers' testimony to determine whether the regulations are doing the job. Without appropriate training and hours-of-service restrictions, truck drivers can cause catastrophic accidents that have long-lasting consequences.

www.overdriveonline.com, "Owner-operator testifies to Congress on damaging effects of new hours provisions" James Jaillet, Nov. 22, 2013

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