New trucking regulations could cost consumers

A truck heads eastbound on Rt 50 in Bowie, Md., Friday, June 19, 2015. The Obama administration on Friday proposed tougher mileage standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks, the latest move by President Barack Obama in his second-term drive to reduce pollution blamed for global warming. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

TOPEKA (KSNT) — There’s new technology that could make the roads safer for you and your family.

Almost four thousand people died in accidents involving big rigs in 2013, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requiring all commercial truck be fitted with electronic logging devices by the end of 2017.

Those are devices that keep track of just how long truck drivers spend on the road every day, so how will they help with safety?

“They say it’s going to reduce fatigue within the industry, they’re not changing the time that we can work,” said Tom Whitaker, Executive Director of the Kansas Motor Carriers Association.

By law truck drivers are only allowed to drive 11 hours a day, and be on duty a total of 14 hours before taking a 10 hour break.

Drivers have to keep track of all those hours using a paper log now, but by switching to electronic monitoring, the trucks are automatically disabled when those limits are reached. No leeway allowed.

“And the goal is to continue to reduce collisions involving large trucks,” said Whitaker.

Driver Kevin morrow already has an electronic log in his truck. He admits sometimes it can be a pain.

“Mostly shippers and receivers want to hold you up, it counts against your driving time,” said Morrow.

And that driving time, means money. Money lost for the sake of safety, which seems like a reasonable tradeoff. However industry leaders say safety already comes first, “our insurance rates are high and for us not to make that our number one priority is just unfathomable,” said Whitaker.

Nationwide the trucking industry is currently short almost 50,000 drivers and some worry this will drive even more people away from the profession.

“The older drivers probably will be more reluctant to accept the new technology and therefore could possibly leave the industry,” said Whitaker.

And fewer drivers means higher costs for you.

“Demand is higher, the price goes up, so consumer price goes up because everything you eat, wear and put in your gasoline tank in your car is delivered by the trucks. I’ve yet to see a set of railroad tracks that go into your local grocery store,” said Whitaker.

One independent driver tells KSNT News he’s been trucking more than 30 years.

He says if the industry adds any more regulations he plans to close up shop and leave the industry, because it’s not worth the extra hassle when safety is already his top priority.

A new federal pilot program may pave the way to allow drivers under 21 to start working as commercial truck drivers.

Experts think that may help curb the current shortage.

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