WASHINGTON—The Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it plans to tighten regulations on truck driving practices by requiring mandatory resting periods and breaks.
The issue of driver fatigue has resurfaced recently as a result of the June 7 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that critically injured actor Tracy Morgan and–less importantly, because he isn’t the famous one–killed another passenger in the van. Prosecutors are claiming that the driver of the tractor-trailer hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. While more than 30,000 people die on highways annually and driver fatigue is a leading cause, the issue is more important now than ever because, again, it was Tracy Morgan and he’s famous.
But many truckers who work as independent contractors claim that the federal regulations would be unfair to drivers, who are paid by the mile and thus have incentive to drive as much as possible. According to Ralph Christman of Arizona, “Obama’s already stolen my money and my liberty, and I’m pretty sure he took my jumper cables because I can’t find them. Now he wants to tell me when I’m supposed to sleep?” Angry and dismayed, Christman added, “You tell Obama to keep his laws off my body.”
For truckers who work for corporations, the story is different. According to many employees, the idea that all truckers want to forego sleep to make more money is a misconception. They argue that company executives, not drivers, are to blame, as an expansion in online business has seen an increase in same-day delivery promises and overnight shipping. Said Michael Donn, a driver for Amazon, “I mean…yeah, some sleep would be, like, really nice.”
But Amazon spokesman Arthur VanScoy issued a statement Tuesday that said the company had come up with a solution that would ensure safety without the federal regulation of sleep. “And that solution, like any good solution,” said VanScoy, “is drugs.”
VanScoy says the plan involves hiring over 50 psychiatrists in the coming months. Their job will be to evaluate truck drivers for an array of illnesses including major depressive disorder and attention deficit disorder, all of which will be treated with amphetamines such as Adderall and Ritalin. Said VanScoy, “The fact that amphetamines keep you awake and almost all of our employees just so happen to have an attention problem is pure coincidence. This is about looking out for our guys.”
Amazon driver Andrew Forrester, one of the first employees to be evaluated and diagnosed under the initiative, says his experience has thus far been positive. “I feel good,” said Forrester. “I haven’t eaten or slept in a few days and I keep grinding my teeth, but otherwise, it’s work as usual.”
Amazon is known for its innovative approaches to expedited delivery, most notably it’s recent attempts to use drones to transport packages.But VanScoy believes this initiative could change the industry. At press time, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was unavailable for comment, as he was working on a contract with Erez Vigodman, CEO of Teva Pharmaceuticals.