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Efforts to loosen restrictions on truckers make roads less safe

While legislators frequently attempt to place restrictions on truckers and their employers that would make drivers in Georgia safer, the trucking companies and they lobbyists they hire seem to be working to prevent potentially impactful changes from being implemented. So while some positive strides have been in recent years to keep people safer when sharing the road with trucks, there is a lot of room for improvement.

According to the Huffington Post, fatal truck accidents are on the rise after hitting a record-setting low during the recession in 2009. In fact, truck accident deaths rose more than 17 percent during that four-year period. In 2009, 3,380 people were killed in 2,983 separate crashes. In 2013, 3,964 people were killed in 3,541 accidents.

Some safety measures are in place that aim to keep drivers safer. For instance, truck drivers are required to take rest breaks and cannot exceed a certain number of hours on the road per week, and trucks are limited as to how big and how heavy they can be. However, lobbyists working for the trucking industry are working to institute measures that would:

  •          Allow trucking companies to hire inexperienced drivers as young as 18 years old
  •          Permit the length of double trailers to be extended from 28 feet to 33 feet
  •          Increase the weight limit for big rigs to enable them to carry more than the current 80,000 pounds
  •          Let truck drivers have more leeway with their rest breaks and increase the weekly driving limit from 70 hours to 82 hours

Issues pertaining to driver fatigue are a particularly hot topic these days. According to Business Insurance Magazine, driver fatigue results in excess of 72,000 crashes each year. Therefore, efforts are being made to require truck drivers to be tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes a person to continuously stop and start breathing while they are sleeping at night and can cause severe fatigue during daytime hours. One study found that drivers are five times more likely to be in a crash if they suffer from sleep apnea. However, truckers oppose such testing as it is often costly and time consuming. Whether legislators will be successful in getting such a measure to passed remains to be seen.

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