Safety advocates push new survey in fight over trucking hours

Truck safety advocates say 80 percent of people surveyed would feel less safe on the roads if semi-truck drivers are allowed to drive longer hours, including when they are tired and drowsy.

The release of the survey comes as Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSwing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-Maine) is pushing for truckers to be allowed to drive longer hours. Her amendment to the Senate appropriations bill would increase the limit to 82 hours a week.

The survey is meant to fight off the Collins legislation; it was commissioned by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition.

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Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem senator urges SEC to investigate Yahoo Week ahead: Election hacks, Yahoo breach in the spotlight 5 questions about the Yahoo hack MORE (D-Conn.), who along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is sponsoring an amendment to keep the limit for truck drivers at 70 hours a week, joined safety advocates on a call announcing the results.

"We all are afraid of nodding off and that's what we're telling our truck drivers and their employers who will pressure them into driving when they are tired," Blumenthal said.

Following a crash that nearly killed comedian Tracy Morgan in June, 80 percent of those surveyed say they oppose raising the number of hours truckers are allowed to drive each week.

Blumenthal said the crash has raised awareness about the longstanding problem of tired truck drivers. His goal is to stop companies from "relentlessly pressuring" fatigued truck drivers to get behind the wheel.

Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who now runs Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, is concerned that truck drivers are forced to operate in what she calls "sweatshops on wheels."

"Almost all of us drive a car, so we can relate to this issue," said James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents many truck drivers. "We know what it means to nod off at the wheel."

The American Trucking Associations said the survey is misleading and pointed to an industry study that found most people would prefer truck drivers to operate during the night, when there is less traffic on the roads.

"Most Americans rightly believe that professional truck drivers are the safest drivers on the road," said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations.