The Trump administration has been reversing Obama-era regulations in various industries, and the trucking industry is no exception. How these reversals will impact road safety is a major public concern. Currently, about 4,000 fatalities occur annually involving trucks, and that number is trending upwards. Eliminating truck safety regulations should only accelerate the trend.
Electronic Logging Devices
Most long-distance truckers oppose the implementation of the Obama rule on electronic logging devices (ELDs). These devices are supposed to monitor truckers’ hours on the road so that they do not exceed the maximum hours they are permitted to drive. Many truckers still use paper logbooks, a system in place for over 75 years. Paper logbooks are simple to falsify, unlike ELDs. Currently, federal law limits truckers to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour timeframe, along with mandatory 10-hour rest breaks. ELDs can become costly for certain companies as most models run about $500.
Truck drivers allege that federal officials do not understand the reality of their jobs. They claim a mandated limit of 14 hours does not consider situations often faced while driving, including delays due to road work or issues with shippers and receivers. Truckers are also paid by the mile, not by the hour, which raises more concerns.
Another proposed Obama-era regulation regarding sleep apnea testing for truck drivers has also been scrapped. The proposal would have required testing truck drivers and train engineers for sleep apnea, with subsequent treatment for those suffering from the disorder. Sleep apnea can result in daytime fatigue, drowsiness, and falling asleep while working. That means motorists in other vehicles will continue to remain at risk of truck drivers barreling down the interstate while feeling fatigued or falling asleep. In 2016, 13 people were fatally injured, and others were seriously injured in a truck accident near Palm Springs, California, in which the drivers of both vehicles were believed to have suffered from sleep apnea and fell asleep behind the wheel.
Fewer Regulations, More Truck Accidents
The Obama regulations were put in place partially to reduce the number of truck accidents. Fatigue due to excessive time behind the wheel is a major factor in tractor-trailer accidents. With paper logbooks, changing the hours worked was an easy task. Other regulations no longer implemented include requiring automatic emergency brakes on trucks, trailer underride guards, which are designed to protect cars from getting stuck beneath the trailer in an accident, and installation of speed-limiting devices.
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