Trucking Accidents Increase as Bush Administration Relaxing Rules Relating to Trucking Companies

The Bush administration, ignoring statistics demonstrating that a high percentage of truck accidents are caused by tired truck drivers, put new regulations in effect that increase the allowable maximum driving hours from 60 to 77 over 7 consecutive days and 70 to 88 over 8 consecutive days, decreasing the time off required from 10 hours to 8. This increase is the first increase in the number of hours drivers are permitted to work in 60 years. Regulators and the Bush administration also declined to require new drivers to undergo additional training as has been suggested by safety groups.
It is not surprising that these changes in regulations to allow drivers to drive more hours will make more money for trucking companies. The Bush administration has put people in charge of the Department of Transportation who had previous experience in the trucking industry, an industry which has donated $14 million in campaigns to Republicans between 2000 and 2006. The administration justifies these new regulations because they save money for businesses and consumers by making it cheaper to transport goods across the country.
This relaxing of safety regulations in the tortured logic of the Bush administration actually improved safety because by lengthening the number of hours experienced drivers are permitted to work even though they are tired, fewer new and inexperienced drivers are needed. This claim, however, of course is made without any empirical evidence to support it and flies in the face of the fact that tired drivers, whether they are truck or automobile drivers, are more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers who are not tired.
Luckily, safety conscious groups sued to overturn the regulations and succeeded when a three judge panel from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals criticized the FMSCA for ignoring its own evidence that fatigue causes many truck accidents. The opinion stated that “the agency admits that studies show that crash risk increases in the agency words, geometrically after the 8th hour on duty.” The court said the new rules are arbitrary and capricious and threw them out.
Not to be thwarted by the courts, one year after the rules were overturned, the FMSCA re-issued them in what is described as almost identical forum. A suit to overthrow these has been brought by public citizen, citizens for reliable and safe highways, teamsters, and other groups. The court heard arguments in early December 2006 and we have yet to hear the results of that lawsuit.
Let’s hope that with Democrats taking over the House and Senate, that more consumer oriented safety conscious regulators will enact new regulations, putting the old regulations back in place if the court does not throw out the new regulations.