Plan to Increase Driving Hours Draws Criticism

Groups contend that giving truckers more continuous driving hours\r\nwill increase highway deaths.

Senators, highway safety organizations, victims and survivors of fatigue-related truck crashes on Tuesday called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to modify the new proposed rule on bus and truck driver hours of service.

While supporting some aspects of the proposed rule, these groups expressing alarm about the increase in maximum continuous drive time from 10 to 12 hours. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Max Cleland, D-Ga., joined Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways in calling for aggressive reform of current hours of service regulations, which have been in place since the 1930s.

"Driving a truck is one of the most deadly occupations in the United States," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. "Increasing the consecutive driving hours for truck drivers is inhumane and rolls us back to pre-Depression era working conditions. This dangerous proposal will result in a dramatic increase in the risk of crashes."

In 1999, more than 5,200 people were killed and 127,000 injured in crashes involving large trucks, which are also more likely to be involved in pileups. DOT research shows that driver fatigue may be a factor in up to 15 percent of all heavy truck crashes.

by Todd Nighswonger

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