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Federal regulators consider simple idea to reduce truck accidents

Have you ever noticed that no matter what time of day or night you happen to be on the road, you will always encounter at least one semi-truck? There’s no question that commercial trucking is integral to the nation’s economy, which is why trucks need to be running at all hours of day and night.

But consider the toll that such a schedule can take on commercial truck drivers. The New Jersey Turnpike truck accident that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan earlier this summer was a perfect example of how dangerous fatigued truck drivers can be. So why do so many truck drivers stay on the road far longer than is reasonable or safe?

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be money. It’s not that truck drivers are greedy and just out to make a buck. Rather, it’s that most truck drivers are only compensated for the miles they travel. They don’t get paid for the time spent waiting for cargo to be loaded or unloaded, and they certainly don’t get paid for time spent resting.

This means that any snag in a truck driver’s schedule often requires giving up sleep and rest in order to get back on the road to continue logging miles.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently testing a possible solution to this problem: paying drivers higher wages. Specifically, the FMCSA is trying to determine whether compensating drivers for time spent waiting (for loading/unloading) will reduce fatigued driving and the truck accidents that result.

This idea is so simple that some might wonder why it hasn’t been seriously considered in the past. The reason, unfortunately, is that the trucking industry has significant lobbying power and generally opposes any attempts at regulation by the government.

Hopefully, simply paying drivers better wages will be an effective way to reduce truck accidents and the change can then be introduced nationwide.

Source: TruckingInfo.com, “FMCSA Will Study Driver Pay Impact on Safety,” Oliver Patton, Aug. 29, 2014

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