New rules to affect truck drivers

Truckers will only be allowed to drive 70 hours a week

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

CALLAHAN, Fla. - Trucking companies have been facing a labor shortage for years, and now new federal regulations may make it worse.

New rules set to go into effect July 1 will mean truckers cannot drive more than 70 hours in seven days. Truckers had been allowed to drive 82 hours under the former rules.

The Truck Safety Coalition wants to restrict drivers from driving more than 10 hours in any given day, but the new rule allows for up to 11 hours a day, as long as the total doesn't exceed the 70 hours a week.

"They want people to sleep more and get more breaks because it's just an accident waiting to happen," truck driver Rodney Sullivan said.

The coalition also wants drivers to be paid by the hour instead of by the mile, or per delivery.

Median pay for a tractor-trailer truck driver is about $38,000 a year.

Sullivan said with less hours on the road, drivers could feel it in their wallet.

"We are supposed to be professional drivers, and I think we should get professional pay, but a lot of the employers don't look at it that way," he said.

About 3,800 people were killed and 88,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2011. While the reasons for those crashes may vary, the safety coalition believes cutting hours will help.

"That's why we have so many fatalities out on (U.S. Highway) 301, because of truck drivers aren't paying attention and they aren't fully aware of what they're doing because of fatigue," Sullivan said.

In 2006 in Union County, a tractor-trailer slammed into a car, then into a school bus. Seven children died from the crash, and an investigation revealed the truck driver had been awake for a full day and a half, except for a brief nap, at the time of the wreck.

Still, neither the industry nor safety advocates are pleased with the new rules.

The safety coalition thinks the new rules aren't strict enough, and the industry says the regulations will be a blow to their business. Both sides have filed lawsuits in an appeals court in Washington D.C. to try to alter the new regulation.

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