How long should a long-haul trucker be allowed to drive in a day? Apparently, an hour makes a big difference.
For 60 years, truckers were permitted to drive 10 hours straight. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been trying since 2003 to change the rule to allow truckers another hour of drive time, and, for a while at least, it succeeded.
The FMCSA first changed the rule in 2003, but a federal appeals court struck it down the next year, and Congress reinstated the 10-hour rule later that year.
Then, in 2005, the Bush administration changed the rule back to 11 hours. On July 24, however, a federal appeals court again repealed the change, saying the FMCSA did not adequately explain its reasoning for adding the extra hour.
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The Teamsters Union, which represents many truckers, had opposed adding the extra hour of drive time and was among those suing to repeal the change. But a diverse coalition joined the Teamsters in the suit, including organizations such as Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Safety clearly is the main concern. While it might be hard to calculate just how much adding an extra hour to the legal drive time might affect trucker fatigue, we do know that the 10-hour rule has sufficed for decades.
Adding the extra hour might add to the bottom line of trucking companies. But it also could endanger truck drivers and those who might be injured or killed when truckers fall asleep at the wheel.
Judging from the roll call of public safety groups opposed to adding an extra hour of drive time, the 10-hour rule should stand.
Federal court has repealed a change that would allow truckers to drive for 11 hours straight.