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Truckers Resist Rules on Sleep Despite Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Jun 20, 2014

Truckers are resisting federal authorities’ rules to on sleep despite the dangers of drowsy driving, New York Times reports.

More than 30,000 people die on highways every year in the United States, federal officials say. One in seven of these deaths are due to a large accident. In an effort to prevent drowsy driving truck accidents, federal authorities reduced the maximum workweek from 82 hours to 70 hours. It is mandatory for drivers to take a 34-hour resting period once they have reached the limit, with two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. This is to ensure that drivers can rest at least two nights a week. Truckers are also limited to driving 11 hours a day on the road with a 30 minute break.

The trucking industry is resisting the federal rules, even though drowsy driving is a leading cause of crashes and deaths on the highway. According to the NYT, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, pushed an amendment through the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 6th that would stop the rules until further research is conducted. She claims that the sleep rules would put more trucks on the road during peak traffic hours, and that the administration failed to consider this before implementing them.  Bill Graves, the president of the American Trucking Associations and a former governor of Kansas, says that proponents of the rules have “mischaracterized” the role of fatigue in the traffic problem.

Safety advocacy groups oppose the amendment and feel that it would set back over 25 years of work. Fred McLuckie, director of the department of federal legislation at the Teamsters union, says that fatigue is underreported at accidents and has become an even more pressing problem in recent years. “Congestion on the highways is greater than ever, there are more vehicles on the road than ever before, and drivers have to be more attentive than ever,” he told NYT. “Fatigue is even more of a concern now than it has been, and drivers need to get proper rest to do the job that they do.”

According to NYT, safety investigators say that drowsy driving occurs more frequently than most people think. Drivers are more likely to have lapses in attention and drift out of their lanes if they only got one nighttime period of rest before their workweek instead of two. 

The issue of drowsy driving has received more attention following a car accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger in the van they were riding, New York Times reports. While driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, a Walmart driver who had not slept in over 24 hours slammed into their vehicle.

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