Lifesaving trucking regulation needs protection

For years the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which I imagine most readers have never heard of, has limited truckers to driving no more than 11 hours, or working anything more than a 14-hour day, without a 10-hour break. These limits have dramatically reduced the number of big rig accidents due to driver fatigue.

For you and me, that means a lower chance of an 80,000-pound truck smashing into our cars at 70 mph.

Enforcing this law, though, has never been easy. Since the 1930s, truckers have kept paper logs that regulators can inspect to make sure no one is cheating. But by some estimates, 15 percent to 20 percent of drivers fudge their logs to squeeze out extra hours and make extra money.

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In the 2017 fiscal year, state law enforcement officers put 30,274 truck drivers out of service for falsifying their logs, the highest number yet, the safety administration reported. And those are only the ones who got caught.

Increasingly, truckers are under pressure to make more runs and deliver cargoes faster than ever. Any regulation of trucking, therefore, has far-reaching consequences.

To address cheating, Congress voted four years ago to require truckers to connect electronic logging devices, or ELDs, to vehicle engines. The administration published the regulation two years ago and gave truckers until Dec. 18 of this year to install the device, which is essentially a modified GPS system.

The American Trucking Associations and major trucking companies embraced the requirement, recognizing how the rule would improve safety and reduce potential liabilities. But independent truckers, who own their own rigs, are calling the requirement an oppressive regulation imposed by Big Brother.


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