By Nathan Barton
The Trump administration has put on hold an Obummer-era FRA/FMCSA regulation that would have required companies to test all drivers/railroad engineers for sleep apnea, presumably adding that to all the other requirements for CDL (commercial drivers licenses). USA Today reports that the squatter’s proposal was the usual knee-jerk reaction to a screaming headline: sleep apnea was believed to be a factor in a Hoboken passenger train crash with fatalities in 2016.
The nanny agencies in the US DOT still strongly urge employers to test for apnea. Although I suspect that the first trucker or railroad engineer (especially them, given the higher union presence in the railroads) who is dismissed or moved to a new job or not hired because of this will quickly engage an attorney who will scream “discrimination” in all directions.
Meanwhile, knee-jerk reaction like this is totally foreign to other professions – especially those in various kinds of government service. Imagine if police officers were screened for, say, sociopathy and indications of short tempers which can (and has, on a very frequent basis) result in cops killing people for little or no reason. Or screening budding politicians (before they can run for office) for psychopathy, sociopathy, delusions of grandeur and lust for power.
We might even have the same problem with hiring cops and politicos that we presently have trying to hire CDL over-the-road drivers.
Mama’s Note: And then… the natural progression of such things… might there be such testing for new doctors, lawyers… barbers and hair braiders? I mean, any of those folks could easily harm people. Sleep deprivation is easily one of the prime causes for bad tempers and poor customer service. There otta be a law, right?
Last week, we drove US-85 between Denver and Greeley (in Colorad0) several times. And noticed the dozens of signs advertising jobs for CDL-qualified commercial truck and bus and equipment drivers. In some cases, signing bonuses as high as $5,000 are being offered.
Industry is critically short of CDL drivers. Not just trucking over-the-highway companies, either. (Those shortages are why self-driving trucks are seriously being considered by many companies.) The same situation is faced by businesses like sand and gravel providers and such businesses as ready-mixed concrete, asphalt paving, fuel delivery, trash collecting and many more. Most of which cannot use automated, self-driving trucks. (Try programming a trash truck to not just know where the trash can is located and collect it, but to prevent litter, keep from collecting the kid playing on top of the trash can, and recognize that X isn’t supposed to be in the trash can.)
This isn’t due to people not wanting to drive a truck for a living (although that number is growing). Much more, it is due to government regulations which mean that many people cannot qualify: and not just related to drug or alcohol use, but ability to speak and read English (sometimes just an ability to read period), physical condition, and other factors.
Yes, these things DO improve safety, but the margin of improvement is often very tiny and does not significantly reduce the potential for traffic accidents and deaths. There is an economic concept: “diminishing marginal returns.” At some point the benefit from more and more investment is not cost-effective. Whereas the first million spent on something might provide ten million dollars in benefits, after six or seven reiterations, that seventh million spent only yields a half-million dollars. Yes, lives are different. But the situation is similar.
Lowering the speed limit in a state from 75 mph to 25 mph will (if actually enforced) greatly reduce the severity of accidents and therefore reduce fatalities and trauma injuries significantly. But spending three times the hours on the road will create situations in which tiredness may actually result in more accidents and more fatalities that otherwise would not happen. Often, the “break-even” point cannot be calculated due to the complex nature of the situation. Government, with its constant striving for more power, more controls, more revenue, is NOT an honest broker who can impartially determine where that point is. Insurance companies may be able to do this – or some other sort of voluntary, free-market (free-choice) organization.
There are other externalities as well. The more restrictive we make the qualifications for CDL drivers, the more difficult it is to find drivers, and the more likely people are to drive big rigs without being properly trained. Driving up the cost of safe transportation makes people more likely to transport things unsafely (setting aside legality). It is similar to constantly raising taxes on tobacco and liquor: the government encourages people to bootleg and smuggle and turn to alternatives that are worse in many ways than that evil thing being taxed out of existence.
We need to stop depending on government to be a nanny. Repeal of this regulation would be a good start, but much more is needed.