Stuck in the Truck

Today's New York Times editorial page laments that "trucking is far more dangerous than it should be." A major reason for the approximately 5,000 annual trucking-related deaths "is that the federal government...has put too much weight on making trucking as inexpensive as possible."

These are my favorite NYT editorials--the ones where the federal government, and only the federal government (but not the administration) can make people safer:

In a sop to the industry, the Bush administration raised the daily driving limit for truckers to 11 hours from 10. Fortunately, last week a federal appeals court struck down this misguided rule. It is time for the administration to rethink its deeply flawed approach to regulating trucking....The Bush administration, however, has been loosening standards as part of its larger anti-regulatory agenda.

The agency charged with regulating trucking, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, decided to increase the number of consecutive hours that truckers are allowed to drive to 11 from 10. It adopted a nearly identical standard in 2003, but it was struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court ruled that the agency had not adequately considered safety issues.

In last week’s ruling, a unanimous panel of the same court reached the same conclusion. It ruled that the agency had once again failed to offer sufficient justification for allowing truckers to drive such a grueling shift.

The tone of the editorial suggests that Bush has stopped just a hair short of personally forcing truck drives to keep going to that 11th hours, because, dammit, trucking is going to be as inexpensive as possible!

Perhaps the same legal regime should apply for truckers and pilots:

The big change came in 1985. From then on, major airline pilots were required to have at least an eight-hour break between shifts on duty. As before, they could fly up to 30 hours per week, 100 hours per month, and 1,000 hours per year. Here's how the rule works: Every time a pilot completes a flight, you should be able to look back at the preceding 24 hours and find at least nine consecutive hours of off-duty rest time. (A provision in the rules allows a pilot's break to be shrunk by an hour one day—from a standard nine hours to eight—if he's given an extra hour the following day.) Pilots must also get at least one full day off every week.

Because that's working out really well.

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  • ||

    KMW draws some very odd conclusions from the stories and editorials she reads. Nothing in the NYT piece suggests that "only" the Federal government can make trucking safer nor does it suggest that the Bush administration is forcing truck drivers to drive too many hours.

    The point was simply that the NYT feels that trucking would be made safer if the previous regulations were reinstated and that the safety of the public should get more weight than the profitability of the trucking industry.

  • ||

    Perhaps the appeals court is looking for some reasoning to support the loosening of the rules rather than just an anti-regulatory chant. Can't the White House just buy some pseudo-science or use a study by some quasi-Fox News affiliated research firm? That they failed to do this (or, gasp!, real science) shows laziness. They really are running out the clock at the White House.

  • ||

    " Can't the White House just buy some pseudo-science[?]"

    I'm sure the American Enterprise Institute could come up with something .

  • ||

    Whenever we are told that we must have more strict regulation for our protection, I love comparing the U.S. to other countries with less regulation to see who is safer.

    For example, truckers in Canada are now allowed to drive for 14 hours a day, vs the 10 hours in the U.S.. This is part of a more general pattern of Canada being way more lax about behavior on their roads. Yet, for some strange reason, Canada still continues to have a lower level of auto fatalities than the U.S..

    Can the people who are "we must be regulated for our safety" explain why the world hasn't ended in a less auto and trucking regulated Canada?

  • ||

    The tone of the editorial suggests that Bush has stopped just a hair short of personally forcing truck drives to keep going to that 11th hours, because, dammit, trucking is going to be as inexpensive as possible!

    What a misguided reading of the "tone".

    The tone I took away is that the editorial writer believes that companies shouldn't have the ability to force their drivers to drive that extra hour if they would choose to do so for financial motive. And that changing the rules to allow companies to do that was a very bad idea.

    Sounds like a sensible editorial. Too bad KMW's analysis wasn't as sensible.

  • ||

    Rex
    it's that damned single payer health care system...or maybe the fact that there are only 50 trucks in the whole place...

  • ||

    Draws conclusions FROM the editorials?

    Oh, My Tube, I don't think you quite get how this works.

    You've gone and put the horse before the cart! Imagine, not knowing what you think about an editorial position until after you read it!

  • thoreau||

    Let me begin by saying that I'm not here to defend regulation of any sort.

    That said, I think it's rather obvious what the point is, Katherine. The NYT is hypothesizing a cause and effect relationship, namely that if regulations are loosened to allow longer driving hours, the trucking companies will choose to increase the driving hours. Now, one can argue that this is ultimately the choice of the companies rather than the regulators, and hence those who don't like the decision should complain about the companies and not the regulators. That's certainly fair enough.

    But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the actions of regulators will lead to certain outcomes, and the NYT is complaining about people who make a decision knowing that a certain outcome will occur.

    Is this really so hard to understand?

    I'm not here to defend regulations, but the way that Katherine scratches her head in confusion is silly.

  • Edward||

    "Yet, for some strange reason, Canada still continues to have a lower level of auto fatalities than the U.S.."

    It's not so mysterious. Canada has way fewer vehicles on the road than we do. A more revealing statistic would be number of auto fatalities per miles driven.

  • ||

    Rex Rhino,

    That's 'cause they can drive off the roads for an hour without hitting anything.

  • ||

    I think KMD's reading of the tone is just fine. The article focuses on the Bush Administration, not the companies. And this quote supports her reading:

    "A major reason is that the federal government, under heavy pressure from industry lobbyists, has put too much weight on making trucking as inexpensive as possible."


    It talks only about the federal gov't and how the federal gov't is responsible for making trucking as inexpensive as possible, at the cost of safety. I read the whole thing, and I don't see how KMD's take is wrong.

  • ||

    KMD=KMW, of course.

  • Dave W.||

    That's 'cause they can drive off the roads for an hour without hitting anything.

    Not only that, but the truck accidents in a place like Mississauga (where there really are people and crowded freeways) are frequent and scary. Worse than the US, definitely.

    It is just that the death trap here in the GTA is diluted by the rest of Canada, which is not like this. Maybe the 14 hour rule is good for the nation of Canada as a whole, but it is lousy if you work off the QEW or the 401.

    3 more weeks and I am so outta here!

  • ||

    As long as we are able to export our inefficiencies, nobody can compete with us; I forsee a "trade mission" to Ottawa, with harmonization of trucking regulations its aim. Likewise Mexico.

    Of course, this will all be much easier in the incipient NoRhtaMerIcAnuNioNstaDt.

  • BTS||

    The NRMANND?
    I prefer the "North Alabama Autonomous Zone" where the residents would be "NAAZies"

  • ||

    "...under heavy pressure from industry lobbyists...."

    Thank goodness there are countervailng heavy pressures from the unions associations of altruistic, public minded citizens.

  • BTS||

    Note: America would work there too, it's just not as funny.

  • ||

    As with most claims in favor of regulation, we are supposed to be shocked that there are competing interests. We are presented with a statement that there are more trucking deaths 'than there should be' without any talk about why 10 was a better BALANCE of costs and benefits. If we are just trying to save one human life, why not 9 hours, or 8 (a "standard" work day).

  • ||

    Maybe Canadian truckers do have as many accidents, but due to the sheer vastness of it all, thousands of jackknifed rigs have yet to be discovered.

  • ||

    KMD=KMW, of course.

    Katherine of Media Deconstruction

  • Jerry||

    Of course, as long as you don't cross state lines, you can keep on trucking all you want.

  • Jozef||

    I work in the trucking industry. On the IT/dispatch end. By far the biggest concern for trucking companies is driver retention, as the US faces a huge shortage of drivers. Given that most truckers are paid by loaded miles, reducing drive time would cause the wages to fall - in an industry that is experiencing serious upward price pressures - which would in turn result to lower numbers of new, fresh truckers. Trucking is already turning into another gardening industry, with the number of foreign drivers growing; tightening the rules would only speed up the trend.

  • ||

    Jason is right. Why not eight hours, or six, or four? Why does the NYT hate an eight hour day? Let's start by holding NYT drivers to six hours as delivering papers in the crowded New York metro area is just too stressful.
    Every business using trucks, if they have a brain, is continually trying to promote safety as insurance rates soar if accidents increase.

  • ||

    Let's see....hmmm, I have personally observed:

    1) Truckers going down a 6-7% grade with overheated brakes travelling way over the posted limit for trucks.

    2) No chains on a powder day in the Rocky Mountians holding back miles of traffic skiers and other things like fuel, supplies and interstate commerce.

    3) Trucks driving through town to avoid weigh and safety stations.

    Every time I see one of these so called safe, drug free drivers take out a road construction crew, or a family in a car, I say thank providence for the almighty drug test. It just solves everything and our roads are so much safer for it.

    OT I'll bet those pilots in the helicopters that just recently ate it in a ball of fiery death, taking a couple of others along for good measure, had urine that was pure as the driven snow. I love to point out when drug free people are so safe.

  • ||

    I suspect that the reason the editorial didn't delve into the merits of 4-, 6- or 8-hour days is because its subject was a rule change from 10- to 11-hour days.

  • ||

    But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the actions of regulators will lead to certain outcomes, and the NYT is complaining about people who make a decision knowing that a certain outcome will occur.

    Knowing a certain outcome will occur???

    Last I checked if you wreak your rig it costs you money. Truckers and truck companies have huge incentives not to get in wreaks....perhaps the regulation should be "Getting in wreaks is illegal"?

    Let me begin by saying that I'm not here to defend regulation of any sort.

    To be honest I have never seen you give an argument that wasn't a defense of regulations.

  • ||

    Willin'
    As originally performed by Little Feat

    I've been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
    Drunk and dirty, don't you know, and I'm still...willin'.

    And I was out on the road, late at night,
    Seen my pretty Alice, in every headlight...Alice.
    Dallas Alice.

    And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari,
    to Hatchepee to Tonopah.
    I've driven every kind of rig that's ever been made.
    Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed.

    And if you give me...
    Weed, whites and wine.
    And you show me a sign.
    I'll be willin', to be movin'

    Kicked by the wind, dropped by the sleet,
    Had my head stove in, but I'm still on my feet, and I'm still,
    In a whole lot of trouble.

    Smuggled some smokes, some folks from Mexico,
    Baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico
    And I'm still...

    And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari,
    to Hatchepee to Tonopah.
    I've driven every kind of rig that's ever been made.
    Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed.

    And if you give me...
    Weed, whites and wine.
    And you show me a sign.
    I'll be willin', to be movin'

  • thoreau||

    joshua-

    I was going to give an articulate response, but then I read this part of your post:

    To be honest I have never seen you give an argument that wasn't a defense of regulations.



    Whatever, man.

  • ||

    joe:

    But the problem is that 'too many accidents' is a loaded phrase. Why wouldn't the nonzero number of accidents at 10 be too many as well?

    To make an argument for a given number is to say that number is the right balance of risk and reward. Okay, but when you do that, you can't only address the risk side.

  • Dave W.||

    But the problem is that 'too many accidents' is a loaded phrase. Why wouldn't the nonzero number of accidents at 10 be too many as well?

    5,000 deaths is 1.66 9/11s (which is the standard unit here).

  • ||

    Why does the NYT editorial board must believe that the Executive Branch has truck regulating powers? From the Jayson Blair paper. . .

  • ||

    Truckers and truck companies have huge incentives not to get in wreaks

    ..and a countervailing interest in putting as many miles as possible on their trucks each day.

  • ||

    Why does the NYT editorial board must believe that the Executive Branch has truck regulating powers?

    From the Constitution, which directs the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.

    Most people would consider the connection between the shipment of goods across state lines for commercial purposes, and "interstate commerce," to be fairly clear-cut.

  • ||

    Whatever the "right balance of risk and reward" is doesn't matter to this argument. The editorial is invoking the "do no harm" principle: that government doesn't have to improve everything, but it should not allow situations within its control to deteriorate further. The article was responding to two, ostensibly (and plausibly) related facts. Whether there are too many casualties at 10 hours or not is of no consequence to whether the number at 11 is also too many.

    It would lead us a bit far afield to discuss the proper metric for risk vs. reward, but I want to call attention to one complicating factor. The risk and reward here are asymmetrical. That is, the risks of truck accidents are shared more directly by many more people than the benefits of increased efficiency. This, joshua, is why the "incentive not to get in wrecks" doesn't make the trucking company an expert on safety. The reward from their point of view is always disproportionately large compared to the risk. (By the same token, the public will have a much better sense of the risks posed by punchy truck drivers than of the rewards of incrementally faster shipping).

  • Timothy||

    Look, just put a meth drip in every cab. Problem solved.

  • ||

    From the Constitution, which directs the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.

    c'mon joe...you know it says "Congress"...if someone questions the Executive Branch's authority, you can simply point to the Commerce Clause.

  • ||

    let's be ultra safe...no driving at all. It's sort of like the cigarette tax there's a tipping point for max revenue versus acceptable death toll.

  • ||

    MP,

    Ah, I see; not a federalism question, but a separation of powers question.

    Well, Congress passed legislation directing the DoT to promulgate regulations regulating this aspect of transportation.

  • Fluffy||

    Mutts, that's crazy. Where did the 10 hour rule come from?

    You can't just freeze that as the new perpetual default state. Every regulation has to rejustify itself every morning at 9 AM.

  • ||

    "Whatever the "right balance of risk and reward" is doesn't matter to this argument. The editorial is invoking the "do no harm" principle: that government doesn't have to improve everything, but it should not allow situations within its control to deteriorate further."

    'Deteriorate' is loaded for the same reason 'too many' is loaded. It isn't the case that any amount of reduction in automobile accidents is worth any amount of increase in transactions costs to nearly every company in the economy.

    I also think you are inaccurately convinced about who is bearing the costs for what when the whole picture is taken into account. A tax on the mobility of goods that cost, say, a half percent of GDP would have far greater reach than the risk of those on major arteries. It isn't obvious.

  • ||

    The truth is that for folks like KMW, the idea that the government should not regulate anything is not a pragmatic position, but rather a matter of religious faith.

    What's the point in arguing about it?

  • ||

    I think JasonL has a point.

    If a looser law were to lead to 150 additional deaths per annum, but add $850 million to the GDP per annum, whether that counts as, on net, a positive or negative development is an arguable question.

  • e||

    Maintaining an artificially government mandated limit on truckers' driving hours is hurting a flowering methamphetamine industry, throwing the livelihoods of thousands of small businesspeople into jeopardy, and which has ripple effects damaging the chemical, pit bull, and firearm industries.

  • ||

    That is, the risks of truck accidents are shared more directly by many more people than the benefits of increased efficiency. This, joshua, is why the "incentive not to get in wrecks" doesn't make the trucking company an expert on safety. The reward from their point of view is always disproportionately large compared to the risk.

    What color is the sky on the planet of no liability and no insurance?

  • ||

    The same color it is here - you know, here, where the trucking companies are constantintly getting into trouble for keeping their drivers on the road too long.

  • ||

    I think we should get rid of all traffic laws, since drivers already have a motivation to not crash into each other.

  • ||

    I think we should get rid of all traffic laws, since drivers already have a motivation to not crash into each other.

    The majority of traffic laws are nothing but the encoding of a Schelling Point that makes everyone's travel as safe and efficient as possible. The vast majority of compliance with traffic laws are because the majority of traffic laws are nothing but the encoding of a Schelling Point that makes everyone's travel as safe and efficient as possible.

    Other than that, you are exactly right.

  • Fluffy||

    MyTube -

    Actually, the issue here isn't even between "regulation" and "no regulation".

    It's between a pair of ultimately arbitrary regulations, one of which picks 10 hours as the limit and one that picks 11.

    It seems somewhat absurd that the Court can rule that the 11 hour limit takes insufficient notice of safety, but that the 10 hour limit doesn't. If the same data point that makes 10 hours "better" than 11 also makes 9 hours "better" than 10, why isn't 10 hours similarly invalidated?

    The only real answer offered so far was by Mutts, who said essentially "It's already 10, so 10 occupies a privileged position in the analysis," which seems a bit arbitrary also.

    I guarantee you that if the limit were zero, many, many fewer people would die. So why isn't anything above zero taking insufficient notice of safety?

  • ||

    "Maintaining an artificially government mandated limit on truckers' driving hours is hurting a flowering methamphetamine industry, throwing the livelihoods of thousands of small businesspeople into jeopardy, and which has ripple effects damaging the chemical, pit bull, and firearm industries."

    But there will also be gains; truck stop owners, motels, restaurants, union officials, Congressmen, and various other prostitutes...

  • ||

    Fluffy,

    It seems somewhat absurd that the Court can rule that the 11 hour limit takes insufficient notice of safety, but that the 10 hour limit doesn't.

    Actually, the court didn't rule that. The court ruled that the government didn't follow the proper procedure, that the law calls for - the law passed by Congress, which is the body with the authority to control the regulation of interstate commerce.

    The law calls for a certain evidentiary and review process, rather than the pulling of numbers out of a posterior well-lubricated by K Street.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    I think the good old days of trucking were the best. Truck drivers were once upon a time the most courteous guys on the road. That guy, amped out on little white pills, bad coffee, and a short stack, driving the '47 Peterbilt with a load of chickens careening down the Grapevine with his brakes on fire was a nice guy. These days, it's three flashes from the blinkers, a nudge to the lane line (tickety tickety tickety) and he's coming over. Best not screw with him neither.

  • e||

    "The law calls for a certain evidentiary and review process, rather than the pulling of numbers out of a posterior well-lubricated by K Street."

    joe F[or] T[eh] W[in] !

  • Robert||

    This illustrates why a president like Ron Paul wouldn't have as much power for good as people think. In the Reagan admin. a federal court ruled another transportation safety deregul'n measure to be arbitrary & capricious -- the one voiding the impending requirement for passive restraints (like air bags) if enough states had sufficient obedience of the 55 mph limit.

    BTW, I was nearly killed on the Cross Bronx Expwy. by being sandwiched in my Toyota between 2 trucks in crawling bumper-to-bumper, because the trucker behind had probably fallen asleep.

    Robert

  • ||

    I'm not sure the airline reference is all that great. Considering the amount of booze and hooker sex those guys intake, 8 hours is wholly reasonable.

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