SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– This week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed a set of changes to adjust the amount of hours drivers spend behind the wheel and the time they get for breaks, hoping to keep everyone safe on the roads.
More than 300 thousand people in Illinois have trucking jobs. “The reason National Truck Driver’s Week is so important is because truck drivers move over 70 percent of the nation’s freight. Imagine sitting down to your favorite pizza, and 70 percent of it is gone; that is what we have if we don’t have truck drivers driving in America,” said Illinois Trucking Association Executive Director Matt Hart.
Drivers like Dan Reece said the job can be challenging. “The hardest part of the job is dealing with the traffic and the motoring public,” he said.
Driving long distances, having to reach a destination within a 14-hour window, can also pose an issue for drivers.
“Right now, the law says you have take a break after you have been on duty for eight hours, that may or may not be driving. So if someone came on duty but they were doing some work around the truck or loading and unloading, but then suddenly they get in the truck but and now have to stop and take a break when really they feel they need to take a break a little bit later, they don’t have that flexibility,” said Hart.
That break has to last 30 minutes. Some drivers said trying to get everything done in that short window of time is nearly impossible. “In between stops, stop and checking the loads, stuff like that. And being able to get other stuff done it gets difficult sometimes,” Reece said.
A new federal proposal would change the 30 minute break to a break after eight straight hours of driving. Allowing them to get the rest they need before getting back on the road. “It would be a big relief. Yep, it would be very helpful,” said Reece.
Another change would allow drivers to pause their 14-hour driving window to take an off duty break of up to three hours. Experts said the proposals are all about making sure drivers are not overwhelmed.