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.