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The Government’s War on Long-Haul Truckers
Intrusive new regulations might actually make our highways more dangerous.


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What do the folks who run trucking businesses think about the new edicts issued from D.C. for their own health and safety? Costs are already up, and business is down — in some places by as much as 5 percent.

But no federal bureaucrat ever lost a minute of sleep worrying about declining business or rising costs.

What about those 19 lives the bureaucrats say will be saved each year? The irony of all these rules designed to protect Americans from reckless truck drivers — and protect truck drivers from themselves — is this: They might actually make our roads more dangerous, because they put more trucks on the road during rush hours. And worse, the rules force truckers to sleep when they might not be sleepy, and drive when they might be tired.

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That’s the kind of rule-making only a Washington, D.C., bureaucrat could dream up.

One thing is certain: The new rules are pushing turnover among long-haul truckers, which was already high, even higher. That’s a great way to improve safety: Drive experienced truckers out of the business and bring in less-experienced drivers to fill the void.

These new rules are a big deal to Americans because trucking is a $642 billion industry, and truckers cart nearly 70 percent of all the nation’s freight. When costs go up, that’s money out of all of our pockets — and in this case, for no real reason.

And the new rules are a big deal for truck drivers like Manuel Hernandez. As Morris’s story pointed out, Hernandez is a hard-core long-hauler, with average trips of two to three weeks. But he is also a serious family man, and his goal with every trip is to drive as many miles as possible and return home to El Paso to spend his 34-hour break with his wife of 30 years, Teresa.

You’d think that would be incentive enough to drive safely — the desire to stay alive, get paid, and get home to your wife. But it isn’t enough to satisfy the whims of Washington.

The new FMCSA rules have already had a huge impact on Hernandez. Since they took effect in July, he has been stranded on the open road five times; his 70 on-duty hours had run out before he could get back home. On one such occasion, as Morris reported, he dropped a load in Dallas and then drove to a truck stop on Interstate 20 to park and simply wait until the rules allowed him to drive again. “There was nothing to do,” he  said. “It can be a nightmare of having to sit for 48 hours, tired, when all you want to do is get home.”

“Who made up these rules?” he asked Morris. “Did they have any experience in driving truck, and traffic, and dealing with customers?”

What a silly question; doesn’t he know bureaucrats don’t have customers?

It turns out that Hernandez and truckers like him are required to take those ten consecutive hours of rest because it supposedly promotes their circadian-rhythm sleep cycle. That’s right; our nation’s bureaucrats know better than the truckers themselves when they should and should not sleep.

These rules aren’t just stupid, they are hitting Hernandez and other drivers where it hurts most: their wallets. Pay for experienced drivers has plunged to about $50,000 a year from $65,000, Hernandez said.

Things have gotten so bad, and the industry so riddled with regulations, that many drivers are calling it quits. “Sometimes I think they’re trying to choke out the trucking industry,” Hernandez lamented.

This is a real war story all Americans should know about: the war the administrative state is waging against industry upon industry. And all Americans should meet the real-life working-class victims of that war.

Forget the fake war on women; let’s start talking to Americans about the war our government is waging against our long-haul truckers.

Let’s tell the very real story of Manuel Hernandez.

And see how it stacks up against the fake story of Sandra Fluke.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network and a senior adviser to AmericaStrong. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan. Mike Leven is the president and COO of the Las Vegas Sands and a member of the Job Creators Alliance.

 



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