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Just a few days prior to Tracy Morgan’s tragic truck accident, the U.S. Senate had moved to weaken federal hours-of-service truck safety rules aimed at preventing trucker fatigue.

Mr. Morgan was seriously injured, and another comedian was killed, after their vehicle was struck by a semi. The truck driver was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. The criminal complaint states that the driver had operated the tractor-trailer truck “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours resulting in a motor vehicle accident”.

Prior to the crash, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to suspend the 2013 requirement that truck drivers rest for at least 34 consecutive hours between work-weeks.

The driver had operated the tractor-trailer truck “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours…”

How does this make our roads safer…?

This amendment, attached to the transportation bill, would actually make our highways less safe from fatigued truck drivers.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, fatigue is a leading factor in large truck crashes.

The current hours-of-service rule is as follows:

  • Limits the maximum average work-week for truck drivers to 70 hours;
  • Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1-5 a.m., and;
  • Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

These rules, passed just last year, were already insufficient to protect fatigued truck drivers and everyone around them on our highways.

It’s appalling and unacceptable that legislators are now already trying to pull back further from these truck safety rules, which have failed to protect the public using our highways.

The transportation bill with this change was stalled – a temporary bill to fund minimal highway repairs has been passed in it’s place – but this is not the end of the fight for trucking safety.

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