Sept. 21 — Trucker fatigue and hours-of-service regulations were the focus of a Senate committee hearing held last Wednesday.
Tired truckers “are estimated to cause a growing portion of the nearly half-million large truck accidents on U.S. roadways each year,” Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine told the Senate Commerce Committee panel on surface transportation and merchant marine.
Vernon Ellingstad of the National Transportation Safety Board told the committee it has been nine years since his agency issued recommendations to the Department of Transportation on the fatigue problem in all modes of transportation. “We are extremely disappointed that no changes have been made in the hours of service,” he said.
Ellingstad wasn’t the only one. The American Trucking Assns. says the DOT is at least 18 months behind schedule and apparently will not meet its Congressionally imposed deadline to issue new hours of service regulations by March 1999. ATA Foundation Director and COO Susan M. Coughlin told the committee, “Congress should urge the DOT to issue new science-based hours of service regulations as soon as possible…. Fatigue is a national medical issue affecting anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car or truck. The trucking industry cannot write and issue the rules itself,” she said.
George Reagle of the Federal Highway Administration said his department was “moving with all due speed” to change the hours of service rules, but said most rules changes take about five years to bring about.
Daphne Izer, who formed Parents Against Tired Truckers, testified that the tired trucker problem could not be overcome “until the pay-by-the-mile economic incentive to violate safety regulations is removed.”
Reagle told Truckers News last month that proposed regulations will be issued before the end of the year.