Whoa! It’s time to hit the brakes on rolling back safety regulations for the trucking industry.
Now that’s not to say all the regulations in place were or are prudent, but making big changes based on anecdotes from irritated long-haul truckers is a lousy way to make public policy.
Yet, that seems to be the catalyst for efforts by the Trump administration to make federal rules more “flexible” — as in repeal.
Instead of doing away with safety regulations, good sense such be infused in the rules.
A recent Associated Press article looking at relaxing or repealing trucking regulations began with a story about a Pennsylvania trucker. The AP reporter wrote that “driver Lucson Francois was forced to hit the brakes just five minutes from his home ... He’d reached the maximum number of hours in a day he’s allowed to be on duty. Francois couldn’t leave the truck unattended. So he parked and climbed into the sleeper berth in the back of the cab. Ten hours would have to pass before he could start driving again.”
We can all agree that it is ridiculous that Francois could not drive another five minutes to get home. The rules cap a driver’s day at 11 hours behind the wheel.
The problem is once flexibility is added, some will stretch it too far — to the point it could put truck drivers and those they share the road with at risk. So, moving forward we would encourage flexibility but with caveats that would curb abuse. Perhaps that could look like allowing a little extra time to get to a final destination based on projections of how long a trip should take.
An extra hour would seem to be about the limit, but that’s something for the safety experts who have studied real-life consequences of tired drivers to sort out.
Given the imposing size and weight of these trucks, the safety of others on the road is critical.
In 2017 there were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes, a 10 percent increase from the year before, according to a May report issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department. Sixty of the truckers 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, according to The Associated Press.
Some tweaking of regulations is wise, but it should be done looking at the entire situation — not just from the trucking industry’s point of view. That means using old fashioned common sense when looking at all the angles.
Yes, it was silly that Francois had to spend 10 hours in a parking lot five minutes from his home.
Then again, granting an exception for Francois and others in a similar predicament can’t be done in such a sweeping way that it puts all of us on the highway in danger.