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Truckers and victims come together for tougher safety laws

In 2004, a man from Dallas lost his mother, sister and nephews in a fatal truck accident. The investigation revealed that the truck driver had been awake for nearly 35 hours before causing the crash that took the lives of most of the man’s family.

That accident led many people to realize that tougher trucking laws are needed. In fact, one Fort Worth police officer created a commercial-vehicle enforcement unit on his police department as a result. Together with the Dallas man, this police officer appeared before Congress earlier this month to support new "hours-of-service" laws that would prevent the kind of horrific truck accident that claimed so many lives.

Currently, truck drivers are not allowed to spend more than 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel. They are also not allowed to drive more than 77 hours per week. Unfortunately, those laws are easy to break.

Truck drivers keep their own hand-written log books. There is no systematic check in place to ensure the accuracy of those books, and often, drivers are incentivized to stay behind the wheel for longer. When that happens, sleepy truckers can cause serious accidents.

Even the American Trucking Association supports a proposed new rule that would require on-board electronic recorders that would track the hours truckers spend behind the wheel. This would eliminate the possibility for errors that exist with hand-written logs.

However, many safety advocates also want the lower the number of hours truckers can spend behind the wheel. Additionally, they would like to limit the amount of weight trucks can carry. These changes have the approval of the Teamsters’ president, but not of the American Trucking Association.

Safety advocates, families of people killed in truck accidents and law enforcement officials are hoping that the Senate will approve new rules. Trucks will always pose a danger to other drivers on the road, but hopefully new regulations will limit the opportunities for serious accidents to occur in Texas and across the country.

Source: Kansas City Star, "Safety group seeks limits on trucks’ size, drivers’ hours," Maria Recio, 23 May 2011

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