Will truck safety regulations be loosened, leading to more big rig accidents and deaths?

Source: New York Times

More Drowsy, Overworked Truck Drivers

Long haul trucks.Credit Photo – M. Eddins Jr. for The New York Times
As Congress scrambles this week to reach a year-end budget deal, powerful special interests and their lawmaker-enablers on Capitol Hill are busy inserting favored provisions in the omnibus spending bill with scant regard for potential public harms.
An egregious case in point is the rider that Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, is pushing on behalf of trucking interests. This atrocious giveaway would suspend existing Department of Transportation truck safety regulations put in place in 2012 following a lengthy, transparent and data-driven process to make sure truck drivers get sufficient rest when operating on the nation’s highways.

Unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acts quickly to block inclusion of the Collins rider in the final bill, the maximum allowable work limits for truck drivers would rise from an average of 70 hours per week to over 82. That would rashly put lives at risk for the sake of boosting industry profits.
In 2012, the latest year for which government data are available, close to 4,000 people died and 104,000 were injured in accidents involving large trucks, with commercial driver fatigue identified as a factor in many of the crashes.  American Trucking Association leaders call the current hours of service rules “unjustified.” If anything, though, the rules should be tightened by strengthening enforcement, for example, and lengthening the inadequate 34-hour break that truck drivers are entitled to after a tough 70-hour work-week.
Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Cory Booker of New Jersey have joined with a handful of colleagues, as well as a coalition of public safety and law enforcement groups to oppose the rollback of the hours of service rules. The Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, also opposes the change, as does the Teamsters union.
But the best immediate hope is for Mr. Reid to insist on the provision’s elimination.