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Struggle over truck driver hours shows safety debate still alive

The American Trucking Association says trucking is safe and getting safer.

That's the message that the head of the ATA delivered to an industry convention recently. According to a report on, the online magazine of The Journal of Commerce, the other message that the ATA's CEO sent to representatives was that the organization intends to do more to convince lawmakers, regulators and members of the public that the claims are true.

Not everyone is convinced right now. As we wrote in a post in August, not only is there recognition that accidents involving all sizes of commercial trucks remain a significant concern in New York because of the injuries and deaths that can result, there is legal sensitivity over strategies that trucking companies tend to use to compartmentalize and limit their compensation liability for claims over personal injury and wrongful death.

One of the immediate battles the trucking advocacy group may be faced with is dueling legislation in Congress. The fight features one senator's measure that would expand the number of hours that truckers would be able to drive out to 82 hours a week on one hand. On the other is a Senate amendment that would keep the hours at the current limit of 70 hours a week.

To bolster the effort against the expanded hours, truck safety advocates recently unveiled results of a survey suggesting 80 percent of respondents would feel more insecure on U.S. highways if semitrailer trucker hours were broadened. According to The Hill blog, sponsors of the amendment for maintaining the 70-hour limit say their objective is to ease pressure truckers already face from shippers to get behind the wheel when they're overly tired.

The ATA has dismissed that survey as misleading. And at the recent convention it released its own poll results suggesting that the majority of Americans believe truckers are safer drivers than those at the wheels of passenger vehicles.

So, the debate goes on.

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