Trucking accidents are a concern for all drivers, but two new articles in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune really bring those dangers to light. Each article highlights the dangers caused by truckers’ long work hours, though they both have different views on the cause of the long work hours.
The Tribune article lays blame at the deregulation of the trucking industry. With deregulation, the market became flooded with new companies and drivers. For example, figures from the American Trucking Association show that between 1980 and 2005, the number of interstate trucking companies soared from 20,000 to 564,000. The result was lower working conditions for drivers, and increased pressure to work longer hours to make ends meet, turning the industry into a “sweatshop on wheels,” according to one insider.
The Times points out that the problem has become worse with the Bush Administration. Numerous officials in the administration are former members of the trucking industry, and they have taken steps to relax regulations on the number of hours truckers could drive. The administration has also repeatedly turned down requests for additional training requirements and resisted calls for electronic monitoring to stop the admittedly widespread problem of falsified driver’s log books.
This deregulation and lack of oversight has obvious effects on public safety, but also on truckers themselves. John Siebert, an official with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, was glancing through their members obituaries and noticed that the average age at death was 55. Mr. Siebert also noted that his drivers had an alarmingly high suicide rate.
While these are concerns for drivers all over the country, those of us in Texas and Austin, in particular, should take notice. Texas is one of the most heavily traveled states, and Interstate 35, running through the heart of Austin, is one of the most heavily traveled roads in the country.
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