The federal government thinks long-haul truckers like Bryan Spoon need more rest.
But with the Department of Transportation's new rules forcing drivers to take longer breaks and cut back on hours behind the wheel, Spoon thinks the government has created a solution looking for a problem.
"I wish the government would just quit trying to fix something that's not broken," he said on a recent rest stop in Columbia, Mo., after hauling a load of construction materials on the 48-foot Great Dane flatbed behind his 2009 Volvo 780.
"If I get any more breaks out here I won't be able to make a living," he said.
As of July 1st, drivers like Spooner will have to stick to a schedule that requires taking a 30-minute break in the first eight hours of driving, cut the maximum workweek to 70 hours from 82, and "restart" those 70 hours with a 34-hour break once a week.
The rules are part of a program by the Obama administration to make U.S. highways safer by reducing the number of truck accidents and fatalities. The program also includes a safety rating system that shippers can review when they chose a new carrier, with the goal of prodding the trucking industry to further improve the safety of its drivers and equipment.
"The updated hours of service rule makes three common sense, data-driven changes to increase safety on our roadways and reduce driver fatigue, a leading factor in large truck crashes," said Anne Ferro administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which issued the rules, in a statement.
FMCSA counters that 4,000 truck crashes a year is this number is still too many. The new rules, it maintains, will prevent some 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries, and saving 19 lives each year, according to its analysis.
"There has been progress on reducing the number of fatal truck crashes," said Marissa Padilla, an FMCSA spokeswoman. "But we know that fatigue is still a serious challenge. The bottom line is that our analysis shows that these new rules will save lives, prevent crashes and prevent injuries."
The latest example surfaced last week after a federal probe into the March 28 crash that killed an Illinois State Police trooper found the driver of the semi-truck that slammed into his cruiser had been working more than 14 hours and fell asleep at the wheel.
The new regulations may have the unintended consequence of putting more traffic on the nation's already congested highways, according to some truckers. The new rules require drivers to "restart" their week with two consecutive rest periods between 1 and 5 a.m. The goal is to encourage drivers to get a full night's rest, according to the DOT.
But that new mandatory start time coincides with the start of the morning commute. This has been a problem for a long time, and will continue to be. Unfortunately, the violators never come to light until something bad happens.
Truckers are required to maintain "logbooks", to detail their driving hours, for review by law enforcement in case stopped. I can't even guess how many times I have seen accident investigations reveal TWO sets of logbooks--one real, one fake (to show law enforcement).
The efforts by Congress are admirable, but no real way to enforce, until stopped by law enforcement for some reason.