Trucking Industry Continues To Oppose Even Basic Safety Reforms

There are many common causes of commercial truck accidents. But one recognized hazard has been particularly difficult for safety regulators to address: truck driver fatigue.

Due to the long hours behind the wheel and a work schedule that is always shifting, many truck drivers are chronically fatigued. And studies show that fatigued driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. The solutions to preventing driver fatigue seem simple enough: impose hours-of-service rules that limit how long drivers can be on the road in a given shift and in a given work week. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did create comprehensive hours-of-service rules a few years ago, but consistently implementing and enforcing them has been a bureaucratic nightmare.

The commercial trucking industry tends to oppose nearly all attempts at safety regulation, even common-sense measures. It took the FMCSA years to finally pass and implement comprehensive hours-of-service rules, and trucking industry lobbyists have been working ever since to suspend them. Even if they had remained in effect, enforcement would be difficult due to the antiquated way that many drivers still log their hours of service.

Electronic logging devices have existed in some form for decades. They are essentially devices connected to a truck that can measure a variety of data, including hours spent driving and miles traveled. Most importantly, ELDs would make data collection far more accurate and would make it nearly impossible for truck drivers to falsify their own driving records (many truck drivers continue to use paper logs filled out by the driver, which is essentially the honor-system method of enforcement).

ELDs are relatively inexpensive and have been available since the 1980s. For almost 30 years, groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have been asking regulators to make these devices mandatory on all commercial trucks. Doing so has long been a goal of the FMCSA, but even this common-sense safety measure has been opposed by the trucking industry.

Within the past few months, the FMCSA finally managed to pass an ELD mandate. If it survives a legal challenge, it could finally be enacted decades after the technology first became available.

Fatal truck accidents are responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries each year - and victims are likely to be occupants of smaller vehicles. Truck accidents should not be dismissed as simply the cost of doing business. We cannot continue to let the trucking industry stand in the way of common-sense safety reforms.

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