As Washington moves forward with plans to relax hours of service regulation for drivers, concerns about trucker safety are rising. The ATA is pushing for a balance between trucker safety and flexibility, but the latest round of concerns includes more than just time spent on the road.
Hours of service will always be a hot button topic in the trucking industry. In the pen and paper days, there were concerns about overtaxing truckers and putting them, other motorists, and pedestrians in harm’s way due to long hours. This gave way to electronic logging devices and the ELD mandate. Since then, the issue has been that the ELD mandate was too restrictive, leading to lower hours, delayed shipments, and less take-home pay for truckers. The ELD mandate also gave rise to concerns about trucker safety due to the high pressure placed on them to cover ground within their allotted time in order to make deliveries within specified time frames.
Driver-Assisted Trucker Safety
The ATA also recognized that the industry needs to move from distracting technology to a more integrated platform that allows truckers to focus on the road. More gadgets and software make the inside of a cab seem closer to the cockpit of a passenger jet, and drivers are often distracted from the road, paying attention to information on various displays. While driverless technology seems to be in a holding pattern, ATA President Chris Spear believes driver-assisted technology could improve trucker safety. Since the majority of accidents involving trucks are caused by other vehicles, and many of those occur in spots where drivers cannot see or actively monitor without taking their eyes off the road, driver-assisted technology can monitor those spots and give the driver warnings without breaking their concentration.
Drugs and Medication
The ATA also recognized that opioids are a severe problem within the trucking industry. With many drivers suffering from or trying to manage pain, some have become reliant on opioids and other painkillers. Additionally, with more states legalizing marijuana, the temptation to use the drug will be more prevalent. There are now increased calls for more thorough drug testing, including hair, to keep track of which drivers have been using and take them off the road.
There are a number of hurdles to address in the upcoming years to improve trucker safety, and hopefully, they can be overcome without placing more restrictions on HoS or the ability for drivers to do their jobs.