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Illinois crash inspires trucking safety call to action

Late last month, a devastating crash occurred on an Illinois interstate near Aurora. The truck driver who caused the fatal crash is suspected of driving for more than 35 hours without taking mandatory-length breaks. Many federal regulators, safety groups and the trucking industry itself are aware of the fact that truck driver fatigue is a hazard. However, this latest fatal accident has brought this public safety issue into sharper focus.

Senator Durbin of Illinois was so frustrated by the accident that he called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to thoroughly investigate the crash. In the letter Senator Durbin sent to the FMCSA, he also urged the agency to strengthen its enforcement of existing rules on trucking work hours, break periods and record-keeping.

The fact that Senator Durbin called on the FMCSA to strengthen enforcement of laws already on the books is significant. The FMCSA has taken numerous steps in recent years to reduce the number of hours that truckers can work, to increase the time periods that truckers must rest and to strictly require that time logs be kept properly by truckers and carriers.

However, these laws mean little if truckers or their employers choose to ignore them. In the latest fatal Illinois crash, the fatigued driver critically injured a state trooper and killed a tollway worker after driving too many hours and allegedly falsifying his log books. This collision therefore proves that while new FMCSA regulations aimed at reducing driver fatigue are important, enforcing these regulations is arguably more important than simply choosing to pass them.

Source: NBC Chicago, "Sen. Durbin Calls For Tougher Trucking Oversight," Marcus Riley, Jan. 31, 2014

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