How Long Can a Truck Driver Work? Matthew L. Wald, in the article "A Study of Truckers’ Need for Sleep Raises New Alarms" located in the issue of the New York Times dated October 13, 1997, attempts to convey the results of a study conducted by the United States Transportation Department on the sleep deprivation of truck drivers. The author makes valid points on the issue but fails to back up these points with enough supportive evidence. The study was done to show how a new set of regulations could be structured. In order to determine how to draft a new set of laws to govern truck drivers, eighty long-distance truck drivers, working a combined four thousand hours a week, were studied. These drivers drove just under two-hundred fifty thousand miles while their brain waves, vital signs, and eye movements were recorded by researchers (1). Although these are facts, the author should have explained them a little better. Nothing else is said about the truck drivers being monitored by researcher with electronic equipment. Why they were monitored in this means should be explained. Wald shows that the study shed light upon the fact that clear cut answers could not be found to the question of how much sleep a driver needs to be aware of his surroundings. "By measuring behavior – as opposed to the more frequent technique of asking people how they felt – the researchers demonstrated that some of the people who slept the least did not become drowsy behind the wheel, but that some who slept more had numerous episodes of drowsiness" (1). This shows that all people need different amounts of sleep to be able to stay awake and alert. Another interesting fact that the study showed was that people who worked at night needed more sleep than those who worked during the day. During the week of the study, the eighty drivers followed all of the federal regulations. Some of the drivers did appear to dose off while driving, but fortunately none of them had any accidents (1). The author’s points are very valid, but details are not given on the factors that determine!
how much sleep a person requires. There is no evidence that shows why people need different amounts of sleep. The study was performed to structure a new set of rules to govern the trucking industry. Since the current rules governing the trucking industry were formed in 1937, it will be a difficult task to draft a new set of rules including all of the results of the study. The current laws allow drivers to work fifteen hours a day, but no more than ten hours can be driven in that same day. After a ten hour driving period, a driver must be allowed an eight hour break (1-2). These facts cannot be disputed, but there is the missing presence of detail. Wald fails to go into detail of the some of the more definite rules of truck driving such as the log book. The study brings out some of the dangers of sleep deprivation and some possible way to curb the problem. The United States Transportation Department blames the problem on drivers who falsely fill out logbooks and bend rules. One good example of a driver falling asleep behind the wheel because of broken rules is: the "one who fell asleep on the Cross Westchester Expressway in White Plains on July 27, 1994, crashing his propane truck into a bridge support. The driver, Peter G. Conway, 23, had slept no more than 5.5 hours while working two days straight before the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board later determined. He was killed and 23 people were injured in their houses when the truck touched off an inferno in a residential neighborhood (2)." The Transportation department rarely acts on driving companies whose drivers falsely fill in logbooks on a routine basis. One day after the article was published in "The New England Journal" last month, Transportation!
Secretary Rodney E. Slater made a plea for extra powers of enforcement, including higher fines for those who break the rules and more freedom to take these drivers off the highways. Some argue that if all rules and regulations are followed, there will still be accidents from drivers who fall asleep (2). The