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Published: Friday, 9/2/2005

Bad policy for truck drivers

THE Bush Administration has shortened the amount of time the nation's truck drivers can work on a single day and now requires them to get eight straight hours of sleep. But don't expect that to improve road safety, because the administration now says truckers can spend 11 continuous hours on the road, an hour more than before.

Instead of decreasing the number of accidents involving large trucks, these new regulations are bound to cause more mayhem. Come October, instead of a maximum of 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week driving, truckers will be able to spend 11 hours a day and 77 hours a week driving. Anybody who has taken a long road trip knows that's pushing the limits of human endurance.

Yes, the new restrictions - if you want to call them that - shorten truckers' workday from 15 to 14 hours, and the rest period is an improvement, too. The old rules said truckers could split up their rest. The new rules say they must have eight continuous hours rest.

This is a massive giveaway to the trucking industry. And furthermore, the administration has pretty much deregulated short-haul truckers by saying they no longer have to keep records showing how many hours they work each week. That's another ticket for potential disaster because nobody will know how long they are on the road.

The administration argues that research has shown that the new regulations will save lives. But the public is more likely to believe Teamsters union president James P. Hoffa, who said, "Some greedy employers are trying to squeeze drivers to enrich their bottom line at the expense of public safety on America's highways."

He added, "What reasonable person who has traveled our nation's roads and highways thinks that forcing tired truck drivers to stay behind the wheel even longer is good public policy?"

Large-truck crashes increased 3.1 percent from 2003 to 2004. Sadly, that could increase further. Anybody who approves allowing employers to keep truck drivers on the road for 11 hours straight ought to be required to drive a car next to an exhausted tractor-trailer driver.

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