The Baltimore Sun

New rules improve trucking safety

The Baltimore Sun's editorial "Yawning danger" (Dec. 28) failed to note two very good reasons why the current trucking work rules are safer than the pre-2004 rules: The 2004 work rules 1) reduced the hours of work truckers are allowed and 2) increased the hours of rest required every day.

The current rules may allow an additional hour of driving time, but that hour falls within a significantly shorter total work day. Under the current rules, the work day is limited to 14 hours. Under the pre-2004 rules, the work day was at least one to two hours longer. The pre-2004 limit was a 15-hour work day, but that day could be lengthened by meal breaks.

The current rules also require 10 hours of daily rest, as opposed to the eight hours required by pre-2004 rules.

The editorial's claim that trucking companies can force drivers to spend an extra hour behind the wheel is false. Since 1982, federal law has prohibited forcing drivers to get behind the wheel if they are fatigued.

And the statistically insignificant rise in large-truck crash fatalities in 2005 is no proof that the 2004 rules caused safety problems.

Indeed, the editorial failed to note that highway fatalities that did not involve large trucks increased 1.4 percent in 2005 but large-truck crash fatalities increased less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

Factors other than the 2004 rules caused the small, brief increase in large-truck crash fatalities. This is borne out by U.S. Department of Transportation statistics that show trucking is the safest it has been since DOT began keeping those numbers in 1975.

The large-truck crash rate decreased in 2006 and 2007 and is now 58 percent lower than it was in 1975.

The American Trucking Associations has proposed further improving truck safety by requiring that trucking companies that have failed to comply with hours-of-service rules install electronic on-board recorders to make enforcement of the rules easier.

But reversing the 2004 change in the hours-of-service regulations would be foolish, would make our highways less safe and would cost lives.

Barbara Windsor, New Market

Anne S. Ferro, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the vice chairwoman of the American Trucking Associations and the president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association Inc.

Defeat of Hamas will be gift to world

Since Israeli forces left Gaza more than three years ago, the citizens of Israel have been subjected to virtually daily assault by mortar and rocket fire from that territory.

The government of Israel has shown extraordinary, and perhaps foolish, restraint in not acting militarily to defend its citizens and stop the attacks by the Hamas-led regime ruling Gaza before now. At the same time that Hamas has attacked Israel, it has attacked fellow Gazans and persecuted non-Muslims.

Israel's actions over the past week bring the prospect of liberation and safety to all peace-loving citizens in Gaza and its environs.

The defeat of Hamas will be welcomed as a new year's gift to the entire world.

Jonathan C. Finkelstein, Ellicott City

End of column stills a voice for farmers

On behalf of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the state's farming community, we want to thank Ted Shelsby for his many years of reporting on farm-related subjects.

Through his feature stories and weekly "On the Farm" column, Mr. Shelsby presented a wide range of timely topics affecting the state's economy, land use, environment and food supply from a perspective that is rarely presented today, despite its importance to all Marylanders.

The loss of his column will deprive citizens of one of the few remaining regional mass media outlets that tell the stories of an industry that covers one-third of Maryland's land, provides $2 billion in direct income to some 12,000 farm families and is the focus of great attention for its importance to our environment and local food supply ("A look at farm troubles, triumphs," Dec. 28).

Thank you, Mr. Shelsby, for your attention and thoughtful, unbiased reporting.

We are sorry to see you go and wish you all the best.

Roger L. Richardson Earl F. Hance, Annapolis

The writers are, respectively, the secretary and deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

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