Senate Mulls Mandatory Rest Periods for Truckers

The U.S. Senate is debating whether or not federal regulations that mandate nighttime rest periods for truck drivers should be repealed, with some senators supporting the current rules while others claim they have led to an increase in daytime accidents.

The current federal laws require truck drivers to rest for a minimum of 34 hours after a 70-hour work week, which must include two rest periods between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in an attempt to ensure adequate rest during the nighttime. In addition, the current laws cap driving time to 11 hours in a row and require a half-hour break for every eight hours of driving.

Senators are now debating whether the current rules should be changed in the wake of a transportation, housing and urban development appropriations bill that contains a proposed amendment to suspend the existing rest requirements.

Some senators and truck driving groups advocate changing the rules, arguing that they force truck operators to drive during the busiest hours of the day, thereby causing more accidents. Others sendators and highway safety groups say the rules should remain in place, as they encourage drivers to get adequate rest during the night and prevent drowsy driving.

The problem of truck driver fatigue caught the attention of the nation recently after a Wal-Mart truck crashed into a limousine earlier this month, critically injuring comedian Tracy Morgan and killing comedian James McNair. The driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, admitted that he had not slept for over 24 hours prior to the crash.