A major cause of these casualties is truck driver fatigue. As studies show -- and as anyone who's driven long distances knows -- driver alertness and performance deteriorate dangerously after about eight hours behind the wheel. So Congress directed the trucking regulatory agency to make safety its No.1 priority and to revise the rules to decrease crashes caused by fatigue.
In 2003, the Bushites issued their new rules. Astonishingly, the rules increased the length of time a trucking corporation could make its drivers stay behind the wheel, raising the limit from 60 hours a week to 77. That's 11 hours a day!
The watchdog group Public Citizen sued, and in 2004 a federal appeals court struck down this irresponsible ruling. In 2005, however, under heavy lobbying from the industry, the agency essentially reissued its old regulation allowing seven consecutive, 11-hour days on the road. Again, Public Citizen sued, and now a second appeals court has overturned the agency's actions.
The industry still insists that the long hours are warranted because they make it cheaper to move stuff across the country. Yeah -- unless you're one of the 5,000 people a year who pay with their lives! To keep informed on highway safety issues, visit Public Citizen at www.citizen.org.
For more nuggets of wisdom from America's No. 1 populist, check out jimhightower.com.