Posted On: December 15, 2006 by Christopher T. Hurley

As Trucking Rules Are Eased, a Debate on Safety Intensifies

"As Dorris Edwards slowed for traffic near Kingdom City, Mo., on her way home from a Thanksgiving trip in 2004, an 18-wheeler slammed into her Jeep Cherokee. The truck crushed the sport-utility vehicle and shoved it down an embankment off Interstate 70. Ms. Edwards, 62, was killed. The truck driver accepted blame for the accident, and Ms. Edwards's family filed a lawsuit against the driver and the trucking company. In the course of pursuing its case, the family broached a larger issue: whether the Bush administration's decision to reject tighter industry regulation and instead reduce what officials viewed as cumbersome rules permitted a poorly trained trucker to stay behind the wheel, alone, instead of resting after a long day of driving. After intense lobbying by the politically powerful trucking industry, regulators a year earlier had rejected proposals to tighten drivers' hours and instead did the opposite, relaxing the rules on how long truckers could be on the road. That allowed the driver who hit Ms. Edwards to work in the cab nearly 12 hours, 8 of them driving nonstop, which he later acknowledged had tired him. Government officials had also turned down repeated requests from insurers and safety groups for more rigorous training for new drivers. The driver in the fatal accident was a rookie on his first cross-country trip; his instructor, a 22-year-old with just a year of trucking experience, had been sleeping in a berth behind the cab much of the way."

Stephen Labaton, New York Times, 12/3/06
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/washington/03trucks.html

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