After ELDs rocked the trucking industry here comes the Denham amendment to shake things up even further. It was approved by the house, and now it has to be approved by the Senate, but what exactly does it mean and why are people fighting it? Isn’t it an aviation bill? What does a plane bill have to do with semis? Luckily, we have some answers for you.
What is the Denham Amendment?
The Denham amendment is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FFA) reauthorization bill that recently passed in the house. If passed by the senate it will allow truckers to work for longer hours without stopping for breaks because if they abide by the hours of service laws put in place by the Department of Transportation they will preempt state laws.
This means that they won’t need to follow New York’s law, for example, requiring truck drivers to take an hour break after driving for five hours if they work at least 7 ½ hours. On top of this, the drivers will no longer be paid for these breaks in paying states.
Now drivers can still take breaks, but isn’t there less incentive if they aren’t paid for those breaks? Under federal law and enforced by ELDs they have to take a 30-minute break every eight hours.
So, if they drive less than 8 hours why stop for rest or food? Rates of fatigue could increase on our nation’s roads. Plus, while ELDs help drivers become more productive, this amendment could allow trucking companies to get away with paying federal minimum wages instead of the state-imposed minimum wages.
Why Trucking Fatigue is Dangerous
If truckers don’t rest when they get tired then they begin driving fatigued, making the roads an incredibly dangerous place, as the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that as much as 40% of semi truck accidents are fatigue related.
Of the fatalities caused by fatigue-related accidents in 2016, 66% of those killed occupied passenger vehicles, 16% were pedestrians, on bicycles, or motorcycles, and 17% occupied the semi trucks.
Driving fatigued is the equivalent of driving drunk. It causes drivers to have mood swings, irritability, impaired judgment, delayed reflexes and responses, dizziness, chronic tiredness, and more. All of these symptoms make it incredibly difficult to focus on the road.
However, even if drivers do stop to get the rest that they desperately need, sleep apnea may prevent from happening. Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that causes your breathing to repeatedly stop during the night.
80% of people with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed and factors commonly found in the trucking industry such as being overweight or an older male highly contribute to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most dangerous form of this disorder.
Most drivers just think they’re tired as many of their sleep apnea symptoms such as loud snoring, making up choking or gasping for air, waking with a dry mouth or headache, and more go unnoticed during their rest.
Plus, drivers simply just don’t have time to stop for a few days to take a sleep study at a clinic to see if they have sleep apnea or not, but they can take a simple at-home sleep test. It’s shipped directly to their door, used for one night, and returned so a qualified sleep physician can analyze their results.
Based on your results, you may be prescribed a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which is the most effective treatment method. CPAP machines send a continuous flow of air into your airways to keep them clear of any blockages so you can keep the restful sleep you deserve.
They will fit perfectly and can be powered by your rig, so you can get great sleep no matter where your loads take you.
Will The Denham Amendment Pass?
The FAA bill that includes the Denham amendment still has to pass the Senate before any changes are made, so there’s still time to support or fight it. No matter what side of the Denham amendment you’re on, you can still fight the major issue of fatigue by getting a sleep apnea test for yourself or other drivers as soon as any sleep apnea symptoms arise.