Trucker hours limited by law, drivers forced to take a break - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Trucker hours limited by law, drivers forced to take a break

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Trucking companies have two weeks to comply with a new law that defines in great detail how much rest drivers need to take in between shifts, and how many hours they spend on the road.  

Under the new plan, truck drivers will be allowed to drive a maximum of 70 hours in a week, down from 82.  And, they are forced to take a rest break after eight hours of driving. 

Many jobs keep employees working long hours, but this profession is especially being targeted because of what is at stake if something goes wrong. 

Londa Beck teaches students at the Georgia Driving Academy and used to drive trucks as her full-time job.  While she understands why the law was enacted, she says some of the guidelines are impractical for drivers to follow. 

"They're trying to eliminate some of the bad accidents that have been happening from midnight to six.  That's when they say most of the big trucks have wrecks. They think that way, the driver can get out, take a break, rest a little bit, and not stay behind the wheel for ten straight hours," said Beck. "If you're out in Texas, say going to El Paso, there's hundreds of miles where there's nothing out there.  It's just road.  And if you've got to come down after an eight hour drive, they're going to have to pull off on a ramp on the side of the interstate, just to wait that thirty minutes.  And that couldn't be safe- especially at night." 

Besides the impact on drivers, the companies may have difficulty adjusting to the restrictions and the end result may translate to bigger expenses that could be passed on to the customer. 

"You have certain times to deliver.  The shippers want you to deliver on time and the customers want their loads on time, and if you have to stop and take a break, they're going to have to reschedule the runs," said Beck. 

Londa Beck says she wishes the people who wrote this law could experience firsthand what it takes to be a truck driver. 

Beck points out they are already required to undergo a lot of training. It's 180 hours just to get the license and after that there are weeks of training with the employing companies. To her, these extra considerations seem unnecessary.  She believes the rules will slow down drivers even more than intended.  For a truck driver, finding a safe place to take a thirty minute break could take thirty minutes in itself. 

Truck drivers who stay on the road for three or more hours than they are supposed to will be hit with almost $3,000 in fines, and their employers will have to pay $11,000.

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