According to a recent New York Times story, the number of fatalities on highways involving large trucks and tractor trailers will continue to rise unless Congress steps in with a comprehensive highway funding bill to promote driver safety. Unfortunately, Congress is introducing legislation to deregulate the trucking industry.
The article notes Congress is pushing to expand the hours drivers can work during an eight day period, from 70 hours to 82 hours, as well as throw out laws requiring drivers to take 34 hours off from driving between work weeks. Congress also wants to lower the minimum age for drivers from 21 years old to 18 years.
Noting that while collision prevention software and anti-locks brakes are becoming standard pieces of equipment cars sold by major automakers, the Times’ article points out only a minuscule percentage of commercial vehicles are equipped with the same technology. The inability to embrace accident prevention technology coupled with grueling work schedules for truck drivers may be some of the main factors contributing to the rise in trucking-related fatalities.
The American Trucking Association, the industry's lobby group, is pushing for larger trucks and longer work weeks for drivers even as highway deaths involving large trucks rose 17 percent from 2009 to 2013. Trucking associations maintain regulations will only add operating costs to the industry, resulting in higher costs to consumers.
The New York Times article concludes with a call for Congress to push a comprehensive highway funding bill, something that hasn’t happened since 2009. Congress passed its most recent patch bill in July, set to expire in October. A comprehensive highway funding bill should provide enough funding and political muscle to ensure the safety of drivers on our nation’s highways and help prevent future deaths.