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Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007 07:12 pm

The price of trucker fatigue

Sleepy truckers kill about 5,000 people a year

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Untitled Document The Bush administration is determined to increase corporate power even if it kills them — or you! Eager to serve the giant trucking firms that have supported President George W. Bush with generous campaign contributions, Bush’s acolytes at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration keep trying to jimmy the rules of the road in ways that fatten trucker profits, wear out drivers, and endanger everyone sharing our roads. This is no small issue, for some 100 people die and more than 2,000 are injured every week in crashes involving large trucks. A major cause of these casualties is truck-driver fatigue. As anyone who’s driven long distances knows, driver alertness and performance deteriorate dangerously after about eight hours behind the wheel. So Congress directed the trucking regulatory agency to make safety its No. 1 priority and to revise the rules to reduce the incidence of crashes caused by fatigue. In 2003, the Bushites issued their new rules. Astonishingly, the rules increased the length of time a trucking corporation could make its drivers stay behind the wheel, raising the limit from 60 hours a week to 77. That’s 11 hours a day! The watchdog group Public Citizen sued, and in 2004 a federal appeals court struck down this irresponsible ruling. In 2005, however, under heavy lobbying from the industry, the agency essentially reissued its old regulation allowing seven consecutive 11-hour days on the road. Again Public Citizen sued — and now a second appeals court has overturned the agency’s actions. The industry still insists that the long hours are warranted because they make it cheaper to move stuff across the country. Yeah — unless you’re one of the 5,000 people a year who pay with their lives! To keep informed, go to www.citizen.org.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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