The safety of “ordinary” citizens is regularly sacrificed in the face of motivated special interests. One company employing thousands of people is highly motivated to destroy protections for those workers. Each worker has limited resources to assert his or her rights, so the fight is one-sided. It is a problem that has compromised the rights and interests of almost every American. Special interests impact highway safety in the same way they affect everything else – things get worse for the majority so that a highly interested minority can profit. The latest spending bill being considered by Congress has now had a rider attached to it that could increase trucking accidents and deaths caused by exhausted truck drivers.
A Senator from Maine has chosen to attach a measure to the latest spending bill. The measure would change the maximum allowable work hours for truck drivers from 70 per week to 82. If you are wondering what that has to do with spending, that’s a good question. The political reality is that is has nothing to do with spending and everything to do with destroying a hard fought and publicly debated safety measure in the name of trucking company profits.
A 70-hour work week is arguably unsustainable. Exhaustion is a threat in almost any occupation, but for someone driving a semi for a living, exhaustion can be deadly. The trucking industry has had difficulty filling driver positions for some time. Rather than increase wages and benefits to attract more workers, trucking companies are looking for ways to work the current drivers harder. The sad truth is that if increased profits are greater than the money spent on political contributions and payouts to victims of deadly truck accidents, trucking companies will call it a win.
Drowsy driving is a massive problem in the trucking industry. If passed, this latest measure will mean lives lost. The majority will suffer while a few pocket the proceeds.
Source: The New York Times, “More Drowsy, Overworked Truck Drivers,” by Dorothy J. Samuels, 9 December 2014