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New commercial trucking rules kick in: The debate continues

They agree to disagree.

That’s about all you can say about the respective viewpoints of most commercial truckers across the country, including in Ohio, and federal regulators concerning the two groups’ disparate opinions regarding newly instituted trucking rules.

Those rules relate directly to safety, and their implementation this past Monday increases public safety by greatly reducing truck accident risks owing to driver fatigue, say officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Many drivers flatly do not feel that view and have long voiced their disagreements leading up to the changes this week. In fact, the commercial trucking industry commenced litigation in the past in an effort to reverse the rules taking effect.

That didn’t work, and the nation is now observing a new pattern of trucking behavior and traffic.

Most specifically, the rules usher in three major changes, namely these: Drivers must take a half-hour break within the first eight hours of their day; the previous 82-hour threshold for hours worked in a week has now been cut back to 72; and drivers must “restart” their 70 hours with a 34-hour break every week. The FMCSA requires that restart to occur in the early morning hours, with drivers being able to recommence transport in a manner that coincides with the onset of early-morning traffic.

The FMCSA states that such scheduling allows for enhanced sleep. Many drivers say that it simply makes things more dangerous by putting an inordinately high number of large trucks out on the road during rush-hour traffic in the morning commute.

Do the changes really make things safer? Government regulators say that they do, without a doubt. Most truckers say they don’t, and point to an FMCSA-authored study conceding that fatal truck crashes have fallen by nearly 30 percent since 2000.

Time will tell, with relevant statistics undoubtedly being available and touted one way or the other around this time next year.

Source: NBC News, "Feds, truckers clash over new safety rules," John W. Schoen, June 30, 2013

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