Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

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EDITORIAL:

Trump administration sacrifices safety in pursuit of deregulation

On July 18, 2018, a construction crew flagger was working on U.S. Highway 93 northeast of Las Vegas when he saw a Peterbilt tractor-trailer rig speeding toward him and four vehicles that had stopped at the site.

The flagger ran to the side of the road and desperately motioned for the semi to slow down, but to no avail. The truck slammed into the vehicles, killing two Idaho men. The collision was so violent that the car containing those two men was literally sheared in half down the middle.

The cause: Nevada Highway Patrol officers said the truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel.

That terrible accident is worth remembering in light of recent news that the Trump administration was rolling back regulations on the length of time over-the-road truckers can spend behind the wheel.

Drivers currently are restricted to 11 hours of driving over a 14-hour period. The 14-hour clock starts after a 10-hour off-duty period. In addition, truckers must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight consecutive hours.

The proposed changes would extend the 14-hour period to 16 hours to allow for traffic tie-ups, inclement weather and delays in loading cargo. In addition, on-duty time for short-haul drivers would be extended from 12 hours to 14.

Traffic safety advocates say that’s dangerous — it allows drivers to stay behind the wheel longer without resting and increases the risk of falling asleep.

Those are valid concerns.

In President Donald Trump’s rush toward deregulation, he’s putting us all in danger.

In 2017, the last full year for which statistics have been made available, the National Traffic Safety Board reported that 60 fatal truck crashes involved drivers who were “asleep or fatigued.” But the real number was actually much higher — safety officials said they believe drowsy driving is heavily underreported to authorities.

Considering that the overall number of crashes that year (4,700) was up 10% from 2016, relaxing the regulations is a step in the wrong direction.

Granted, this isn’t just a problem for truck drivers. The NTSB says dozing drivers are at fault in 13% of fatalities involving all types of vehicles. It’s also important to point out that most over-the-road truckers take safety seriously.

But considering the damage that trucks can cause, and the pressure that drivers are under to deliver goods on time, it’s reckless to water down the regulations.