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Truckers oppose proposal to limit driving hours

June 08, 2000|By JOSH POLTILOVE

Local truckers and industry representatives are expressing frustration with proposed legislation that will further restrict the amount of hours drivers can work.

The proposal, designed to reduce the amount of accidents caused by exhaustion, would limit long-distance drivers to 12 hours of work in a 24-hour period. Electronic monitors on their vehicles would keep track of work hours.

Current federal law allows drivers to spend 15 hours on duty with 10 hours off.

"We support things the way they are. There is a shortage of drivers now, and this will only make things worse," said Dale Aldridge, Hagerstown branch manager of ABF Freight Co. Inc. "If this passes, we'll have to get more drivers with not as much experience."

His drivers work 70 hours in eight-day shifts. They are allowed to drive 15 hours in a 24-hour period.

"Every trucker's against it. I haven't heard anybody say they're for it," said Charles Hammersmith, a long-haul trucker from Cumberland, Md., who stopped to rest at a Williamsport truck stop Thursday afternoon. "A lot of guys are sleeping right now, but they're not going to sleep for 12 hours."

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Maryland Motor Truckers Association President Walter Thompson said his association opposes the changes.

Changes to the hours of service, which have been in effect since the mid-1930s, could cause a major disruption to the industry, Thompson said.

Daphne Izer, co-chairman of Parents Against Tired Truckers, agreed the proposed legislation has its flaws.

While she is pleased with the suggested use of on-board computers and the added rest time, she said the new legislation allows truckers to take fewer breaks during a haul.

"Everybody's against this for one reason or another," Izer said. "I have my doubts if it's going to fly because trucking is really against it."

The proposed regulations could adversely affect the 550 drivers employed by D.M. Bowman Inc., in Williamsport, Chairman Donald M. Bowman said.

"We've seen enough to know it's going to drastically change the industry and cut productivity," he said.

Bowman said he doesn't think the proposal would make the roads safer. Mandatory breaks could leave drivers stranded in cities far from home on their days off, he said.

The Transportation Department is holding eight hearings around the country to receive comments on its plan to change rules setting the hours drivers can be on the road.

Though he didn't know of any local drivers who attended the Washington, D.C., hearings between May 31 and June 1, Bowman said he hopes the input will lead to changes in the proposal that will not harm the industry.

Kenneth Harry, director of services for the MMTA, said he attended the meeting and more than 90 percent of those present were against the changes.

There will be another meeting July 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C.

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