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Truck drivers react to new federal safety regulations

New trucker regulations mean shorter driving hours

ABILENE, Texas - New safety regulations put in place by the U.S. Department of Transportation require truck drivers to take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of their shift. It also limits the maximum average work week to 70 hours and requires a rest period of 34 consecutive hours after working a 70-hour shift. The new rules took full effect Monday.

The Department of Transportation estimates that the regulations will cut down on driver fatigue saving lives and preventing up to 1,400 crashes every year, but several truck drivers passing through Abilene said these rules could actually make their job more difficult.

Mike Murphy has been driving trucks for 16 years. He said he isn't happy with new safety regulations.

"It's all good intentions, but the people who put these laws into effect aren't truck drivers, they don't know what it's like out here and they try to pass laws to get us to drive safer without knowing the realities of what it's like on the road," said Murphy.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads."

Murphy disagrees.

"They say we have to take a half hour break within an eight-hour period. A driver like me normally might drive two or three hours, stop for 10 or 15 minutes, stretch my legs, whatever. Now I've got to squeeze that into a half-hour break. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to drive longer before I stop to take my break," said Murphy. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said they expect the changes will save $280 million from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million from improved driver health, but most importantly, they said, it will save lives.

Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours are subject to a fine up to $11,000 per offense. Drivers could also face fines up to $2,750 for every offense.

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