Driver fatigue is a major contributing factor to auto collisions involving trucks. Nearly 4,000 people die each year in truck accidents. Many of these are attributed to driver fatigue. Trucks, especially tractor trailers, are already more dangerous on the road because they are so much heavier than smaller vehicles and they have more blind spots. However, truck drivers also spend long hours on the road without much rest time, making trucks all the more dangerous.
Regulations about the number of hours that drivers can spend working at a time are mandated by the government, generally by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They maintain “hours of service” rules for truck drivers, regulating the number and length of rest breaks during shifts, and the number of hours that drivers can work before taking a longer rest period.
The US House and Senate are currently considering transportation bills that would change the hours-of-service restart rules for truckers. The Senate is considering a bill that would allow truckers to work more than 80 hours a week, up to 73 hours driving and 8.5 hours on other work like loading and unloading. The House is similarly considering measures that would revert back to the regulations of the Bush administration, voiding the new Obama regulations introduced in 2013.
Although nearly all safety advocates disagree with the proposal, the spending bill is likely to pass. This is because funding to stop the Zika virus is attached to the bill, making it hard for the White House to veto. This risks allowing more truck drivers on the road when they are too tired to drive safely, endangering the other cars on the roads around them.