Saving Lives or Ruining Them? Telling Truckers to Trim Hours

The good ol'€™ open road. The sun sets, and the street lights begin to shine as the words of Willie Nelson fill the air: €œOn the road again.

As the dusk turns to darkness, the yellow lines in the road start to glow a bit, reflecting the light from the truck. Having been on the road for more than 500 miles, the road signs all start to look the same, and the difference between €œAmarillo 120 miles€ and Amarillo 60 miles begins to lose meaning. Luckily, only 15 miles to go to finish the haul.

First a thought: €œNo problem. I'€™ve done this for years.A long day's work almost done. But next, a glance at the clock. No luck for the truck driver today. Ten hours have passed. Time is up. Now, a decision to make. Pull over and make this trip even longer by waiting around? With only 15 miles to go?

Stories like this have become more common among truck drivers after the enforcement of a new regulation that has cut the maximum number of consecutive hours a trucker can drive from 11 hours to 10.

The differences in perspective” namely, between truck drivers needing to make a living in a struggling economy and those concerned about public safety, including those who have lost family members due to tired truck drivers who cause fatal auto wrecks have brought the issue to the center of a heated debate with no answer that will make everyone happy.

The other side of the debate points out that many of these stories have a different ending — death. Truck driving is among the most dangerous jobs in the country, with more than 3,000 people dying at the hands of truck drivers. But how many did driver fatigue cause? Well, that'€™s just another debate. Some claim almost 40 percent, and others say only 5.

Yet, the maximum hour regulations may not be preventing the truck drivers posing the biggest threat — the ones hauling the longest number of hours from continuing to do so. So in the end, everyone loses the companies needing supplies hauled, innocent drivers on the road and the truck drivers who are used to driving 11 hours instead of 10.

On the other hand, enforcement of driving hours has only been increasing — leaving truck drivers with little flexibility in making a living. For example, one state has implemented a system that scans license plates at truck weighing stations, so police officers can compare the mileage covered in a period of time with the truck driver’s notes. Some tickets can cost as much as $2,750.

So what is the best thing to do? Some have suggested changing the way truck drivers are paid, from by the mile to by the hour. Making this change would prevent truck drivers from trying to cover as much ground as possible in a shorter time. At the same time, though, truck drivers could nonetheless try and work as many hours as they can to maximize paychecks.

Supporters point out that this would create more jobs because more truckers would be needed to fulfill the same deliveries in the same amount of time. But critics contend that adding more trucks on the road will only make truck driving more dangerous as a whole.

All in all, the next time you see a truck driver on the road, just remember: That truck driver may have been driving for a long time. He or she could be tired, and driving anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of truck.

But on the other hand, imagine how you would feel if the government tried to control how much you could work, and with it, putting a cap on how much you could make.

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