An Associated Press report last week told the story of Lucson Francois, a truck driver from Opal, Virginia, who was on his way home and had to stop five minutes away. He wasn’t out of fuel. He wasn’t broken down. He wasn’t sick.
Instead, rigid federal regulations that prohibit truckers from driving more than 11 hours a day required him to put on the brakes. Five minutes from home. And since he couldn’t leave the truck unattended, Francois parked and climbed into the sleeper berth in the back of the cab where he had to wait 10 hours before he could start driving again. Five minutes from home.
That’s just plain stupid.
Make no mistake. There needs to be regulations that control the number of hours a trucker can spend behind the wheel. The same AP story cited a May report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, stating that there were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a 10 percent increase from the year before. Sixty of the truckers involved in these accidents were identified as “asleep or fatigued,” although the National Transportation Safety Board has said this type of driver impairment is likely underreported on police crash forms.
Lack of regulations would most certainly lead to more problems since when it comes to truckers hauling goods and merchandise, time is money. But strict rules that required Francois and truckers like him to stop minutes from their destination and hang out for 10 hours before finishing the trip are ridiculous.
There needs to be some flexibility.
That’s a long-sought goal of the trucking industry. Interest groups that represent motor carriers and truck drivers have lobbied for revisions they say would make the rigid “hours of service” rules more flexible. The trucking industry, meanwhile, has developed a strong relationship with President Trump, who has made rolling back layers of regulatory oversight a top priority.
On the other hand, highway safety advocates say contemplated changes would dangerously weaken the regulations, resulting in truckers putting in even longer days at a time when they say driver fatigue is such a serious problem. Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said regulations that allow truckers to drive up to 11 hours each day are already “exceedingly liberal in our estimation.”
Maybe so. But hard-and-fast rules that require a trucker to stop only minutes from a destination are foolish. Off-duty and on-duty time for most truckers is recorded automatically and precisely by electronic logging devices, or ELDs, mandated as of December 2017 during the Obama administration. While some rules have been relaxed under Trump, this one remains.
Pro-truckers have pushed for changes, and last year they secured support from 30 senators, mostly Republicans. A May 2018 letter to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Ray Martinez urged more flexibility.
Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, had this to say about proposed changes: “I look forward to evaluating the administration’s final proposal. We need common sense regulations that keep drivers safe but also don’t disrupt economic activity. I welcome all feedback on this issue from any concerned constituents and I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans to find the right solution.”
Tell Congressman Brindisi what you think about creating more flexibility for the trucking industry.
‒ Write: Rep. Anthony Brindisi, 430 Court St., Suite 102, Utica, NY 13502
‒ Access email at website: https://brindisi.house.gov/contact/email-me
‒ Phone: 315-732-0713
‒ Fax: 315-724-2472
This article was first found at uticaod.com and written by Observer-Dispatch