Long-haul trucking is a difficult job with many demands, but it is a job professional truckers enjoy doing so much it becomes their lifestyle. As one such professional, I felt compelled by recent events to pen this letter of support for one of my representatives in Congress who has made efforts to help make my industry and our highways safer.
Contrary to what several recent headlines try to indicate, truck drivers are not causing the majority of motor vehicle crashes. They actually log millions more accident-free miles than not.
Like other motorists, we have family members sharing the roads or waiting at home for our safe return. We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents and faithful friends. The highway is our workplace and our home away from home.
Last month, Sen. Susan Collins proposed an amendment to a spending bill that temporarily would put a pause on several regulations related to the hours-of-service a truck driver can log before taking a mandatory break. This amendment would require the Department of Transportation to study all the impacts of those regulations before advancing any new rules — something one might assume would be mandatory.
Put simply, Collins’ amendment makes sense for trucking and makes sense for the safety of other vehicles on the road. The current rules for hours of service, which only were put into effect last July, force truck drivers to spend more time on the road during peak, rush-hour traffic. Additionally, the current rules dictate when drivers are able to restart their work clock on a weekly basis. As one senator put it, it’s the federal government telling truck drivers when they need to go to sleep.
Not only would the amendment make much needed changes to the regulations, under which truck drivers must operate, but it garnered broad bipartisan support — a rarity in Washington these days. It also would address the issue of loss in pay for those of us who work nights. Otherwise, the current provision, which requires some truckers sleep between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for two nights before they’re able to return to the road, either puts us on the road during heavy traffic, which is dangerous for everyone, or has us waiting around for 15 hours without pay before we can drive again.
Unfortunately, the spending bill to which this legislation was attached has — like most things in Washington — become part of a bitter political dispute between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. Perhaps if party leaders took a lesson from our senator from Maine and focused on issues that are agreeable across the aisle, we would see the government working and see a real impact on safety on the highways.
There are far more positive things to say about the safety accomplishments of truckers than a small number of highly publicized, isolated incidents. Such tragedies, while devastating, deserve far more explanation and context to fully understand than a few simple lines on a website or in a two-minute news story.
Collins understands that message, and her work in Congress is a testament to her commitment to safety on our nation’s highways.
It’s important to our industry, and to the future success of our nation’s economy, for truckers be able to safely and efficiently move freight on a sensible schedule. Her amendment was a step in the right direction, and I, for one, am proud to have someone representing my state and industry in Washington who is working to improve the situation on the roads rather than allowing unaccountable regulators to run amok.
Gary Carr of Wayne has been an independent truck driver for 19 years. He serves on the board of the 150,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.