Mounting Concern About Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy joined truck drivers in Middletown today to oppose legislation that would potentially extend truckers’ work hours and, they argue, create the potential for dangerous driving conditions.

Current regulations mandate that truckers take breaks every eight hours, work no more than 70 hours every eight days and get a " restart"- two nights of sleep over 34 hours before starting the next work week.

That could all change. A proposed regulation rollback would allow companies to have drivers work up to 80-hour weeks and do little to protect their sleep. Legislators and truck drivers alike are concerned that these conditions would increase the likelihood of trouble on the roadway.

“I think it’s a safety issue to the public,” said Tom Mikoliet, who drives for UPS. “I think everyone should get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a truck.”

Statistics show that between 2009 and 2012, truck accidents increased nearly 40 percent and nearly 4,000 people were killed in truck-related crashes. More than one in 10 are attributed to driver fatigue.

Rachel Ann Menses of Glastonbury continues to recover from a 2011 accident in New Jersey, in which truck driver fatigue played a role.

“We must do more to improve truck safety,” she said at the press conference today. “Truck driver fatigue is a very real and deadly health and safety issue that places everyone on the road in danger, celebrities and private citizens alike.”

That became apparent just a couple weeks ago when the limo of actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was struck by a Walmart truck, killing one and seriously injuring Morgan and several others. In that instance, the truck driver was in his 14th hour behind the wheel.

“It’s just common sense that you shouldn’t be operating this kind of complex machinery after an 80-hour work week without more than one night of sleep,” said Murphy.

The push to weaken the regulations implemented last year is coming from trucking companies, according to Sen. Blumenthal. The proposed bill passed the appropriations committee 21-9 and will be taken up on the Senate floor next week.

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