Much of the public is now aware of the recent wreck involving comedian and actor Tracy Morgan and a tractor-trailer driver which failed to notice slowing or stopped vehicles immediately prior to crashing into a line of cars, injuring Mr. Morgan and killing one of his good friends. There are allegations that the tractor-trailer driver may have exceeded federal limits governing rest time. There are ample studies which show that fatigued drivers perform as poorly as drivers under the influence of alcohol in terms of reaction time. That is why there are federal laws in place to regulate rest time of tractor-trailer drivers.
Last week, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) proposed a measure to roll back tractor-trailer safety regulations designed to prevent highway catastrophes. The trucking industry lobby vociferously supported her proposed measures which included rolling back “hours of service” rules on truck drivers that restrict their time on the road to a reasonable number of hours so that tragedies like this do not occur.
The fact of the matter is that trucking safety has improved in recent years. This is due directly to federal regulations in place designed to protect the traveling public. Now, legislators want to loosen those regulations and place the traveling public in harm’s way. This author understands the importance of commerce, but at what expense? Transportation services have been profiting in recent years with current safety regulations in place. There is no need to change them.
Not long ago, trucking companies routinely hired “fly-by-night” drivers to haul loads for them instead of using their own employees. The reason they did so was that if the “independent contractor” driver got involved in an accident, the trucking company would not be legally responsible. Trucking companies reaped huge profits with this practice. Yet, the trucking companies made no effort to see that the “independent contractors” they hired were adequately experienced or trained. This resulted in a significant increase in serious accidents on our nation’s highways.
My next blog post will discuss the changes in federal regulations that effectively reduced the disasters on our roads and highways.