Are the Sleep Regulations for Truckers a Dream or a Nightmare?

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Catching up on those 40 winks are crucial to being healthy and productive. But, those of us in the truck driving business know that its not always easy to get adequate rest when on strict deadlines and dealing with overwhelming schedules. Miles mean money.

A common notion that has been thrown around for years is that driving while battling fatigue is dangerous in the same way as operating under the influence of alcohol. And, according to research…it’s basically true. Driving “drowsy” is similar to driving drunk according to a survey that was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. They found that 1 out of 6 (or 17%) of fatal vehicle crashes occurred under the direction of the sleep-deprived. In fact, an episode of the popular Discovery Channel show, Mythbusters, also validated the veracity to this by conducting their own tests after comparing driving after no sleep for 30 hours and after a few shots. The one driver drove 10 times worse when he was tired than when clearly inebriated!

There’s no law against driving tired for normal drivers. But, should are stricter guidelines for sleep to professional truck operators hurting more than helping? Recently, the new regulations that were put in place July 2013 have been struggling to be relaxed because of their possible consequences. But, due to the heightened exposure of the risks associated with operating vehicles when sleep-deprived, it now seems that it is going to be a tougher fight than originally anticipated.

The regulations have:

  • Cut maximum hours from 82 to 70 during a week
  • Required a weekly 34-hour break
  • 2 nighttime breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour break
  • Insist drivers pull over and log hours of rest
  • Daily limit of 11 hours driving

Truck drivers are up in arms about the regulations. They had valid concerns about the new enforced rules for drivers such as:

  • The limits causing highway congestion
  • Prices of goods increasing for consumers because of slowing of transport
  • The industry already had reduced accident rates without the laws (falling about 30% since 2000) according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
  • Many feel that because drivers will be working less; more already hard to fill positions will need placements—likely inexperienced drivers
  • With mandatory rest periods all ending at 5 a.m. rush-hour is packed
  • Truckers will be struggling to earn incomes in a demanding profession

Unfortunately for those who wish for the act to be repealed, a study released in January from Washington State University found that the rules have had a positive effect on the alertness of drivers. Overall, since the rules have been enforced truckers report less fatigue and stay in their lane better than previously.

There are some clear obstacles for the truck drivers who have been defending the repeal of the stricter driving restrictions though. National attention was brought to the issue after a June 2014 incident involving a Wal-Mart truck driver who had not rested in over 24-hours and the comedian Tracy Morgan. The accident critically hurt the actor and led to the death of one of Morgan’s friends. The notoriety of the one victim brought national media attention to something that has previously been swept under the rug in terms of news coverage in the U.S.

Additionally, the Department of Transportation feels that the regulations on drivers will actually benefit the economy; not hurt it. They found that large vehicle accidents cost about $20 billion in 2009 because of medical costs, damage to infrastructure, and other factors. Also, fewer drivers mean less money needed to pay out for driver mortality, which could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars.

No matter which side of the fence you are on this issue, I think we all can agree that adequate rest is important. However, when both points of view are considered; it’s hard to know exactly which measures are right. What do you think?

Author: Hit The Road Jack

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