The trucking industry scored a major victory on the road of regulations; while safety experts are left feeling uneasy. Without getting political, the change has occurred as the Republicans are overthrowing the safety standards that the Obama administration put in place for trucking regulations. These standards have begun to shift as President Trump takes office and the Republican Party takes control of Congress.
The intention is to block state laws that require additional stops for truck drivers. On the federal level, truck drivers are already mandated to take such breaks—and drivers believe a “uniformed national rule” should be followed instead of adding more breaks. Truck drivers and conservatives have been against these added breaks because they aren’t necessarily in place for safety.
On the other side of the fence you will find concerned safety advocates who think these changes will trigger the start of a broad rollback in safety regulations for the entire industry. Under the current regulations, drivers must take two nights off to rest if they took only the minimum break before starting a new work week. For example, if a driver works for a company who operates a 7 day work week, that particular driver can be logging 80+ hours of work—this includes loading and unloading a big rig. The Obama administration required truckers to take at least a 34 hour break before starting another work week; a break that truckers don’t believe they need.
The rule is easily stated on the Transportation.gov, stating:
One is that drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first 8 hours of their shift so they can stay alert on the road. The other updated the use of the 34-hour rest period, known as the “restart”. In the interest of safety, the 2011 rule restricted drivers to using the restart only once every seven days and it required that the restart period include at least two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Basically, it required that drivers have the opportunity to take a very real rest and catch up on sleep before working another very long week. The net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.
However, truckers themselves believe that the government shouldn’t have a say in whether or not they need a break. They believe every driver should be responsible and know when to pull over—without a mandated law in place. Just like other drivers, they believe the responsibility of knowing when to pull over or keep going is up to them.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with the upcoming changes, it is important to note that fatigue is one of the leading causes for trucking accidents. Safety regulations are put in place to not only help the particular industry, but also the citizens who could affected if something goes wrong.