By Emily West and Chas Sisk / The Tennessean
After only two years of truck driving, Andrew Harris understands the need of regulation in his industry.
he is based out of Texas, stopping outside of Nashville is part of his
regular routine to reach the Northeast. He doesn't think the new
hours-of-service mandate for truck drivers that started July 1 will
negatively affect him or his work.
"Without regulation, I feel
like all of us truck drivers, including myself, would be out here
running wild going after load after load, especially if you are getting
paid off a load basis," Harris said. "I mean if there was no regulation,
I would try to hit Nashville to Texas, drop off my load, get another
load and do it again."
The trucking industry is divided over new
federal requirements that place a firmer cap on the number of hours
drivers can be on duty. Meant to curb the number of fatalities on
highways and improve the health of fatigued drivers, the rules could
limit how much money they can make and open truckers to stiff new
penalties for driving too long.
With four interstate highways and
up to 42,000 truck drivers passing through on 89 miles of road in
Davidson County each day, there could be a major impact on Middle
Tennessee. Some truck drivers are contesting the changes, and the American Trucking Associations has sued the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to halt the changes.
aren't against rest," said Sean McNally, the organization's spokesman.
"This is guaranteeing more rest time, not guaranteeing more sleep time.
Drivers were getting appropriate rest beforehand. If it wasn't broken,
we shouldn't have fixed it."
The new regulations update 2003 rules
that allowed interstate truckers to drive as much as 11 hours at a time
but forced them to take at least two more hours off. Passions about
those rules also ran high and are believed to have prompted a ricin
attack on the White House.
The new measures are complicated, but
they have the net effect of prohibiting drivers from being on duty more
than 70 hours in a calendar week, down from 82. The regulations also set
new rules for the "restart period" during which drivers are supposed to
rest up from long hauls, forcing them to be away from their trucks two
consecutive nights from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
The provisions are expected to have the most impact on long-range
drivers who frequently travel at night. The federal government estimates
the rules will save 19 lives a year and prevent 1,400 accidents, while
reducing the incidence of health problems such as obesity, high blood
pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea among drivers.
"There are the
guys that need to come out of the trucks," said Sgt. Allen England,
Tennessee Department of Safety commercial vehicle administrator.
"Imagine if you're going on a trip for 11 hours. You will need to get
out and move. There are some guys that eat and urinate going down the
road. Those guys need a break. You don't want to be driving beside
someone who has been going for 11 straight hours."
are backed up by hefty penalties for violations: up to $2,750 in civil
fines for each time a driver breaks the rules and $11,000 for carriers
that allow drivers to do so.
"They threaten you with all these
tickets," said Gaylord Wethered, a driver from California. "I don't know
what we are going to do."
Randy Vernon, president of Big G
Express Inc. in Shelbyville, Tenn., said the rules could create
difficulties. Drivers who finish a shift in the early morning could be
required to stay off the road more than two days to meet the new restart
period requirements, he said.
But Morgan Adams, a Chattanooga attorney who specializes in trucking law, said the rules are far from onerous.
"The federal government is still allowing them 70 hours per week," he said. "That's an insane number of hours."