The Hightower Report

The Price of Trucker Fatigue; and Corporate Americas

THE PRICE OF TRUCKER FATIGUE

The Bushites are determined to increase corporate power even if it kills them – or you!

Eager to serve the giant trucking firms that have supported George W. with generous campaign contributions, Bush's acolytes at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration keep trying to jimmy the rules of the road in ways that fatten trucker profits, wear out drivers, and endanger everyone sharing our roads. This is no small issue, for some 100 people die, and more than 2,000 are injured every week in crashes involving large trucks.

A major cause of these casualties is truck-driver fatigue. As studies show – and as anyone who's driven long distances knows – driver alertness and performance deteriorate dangerously after about eight hours behind the wheel. So, Congress directed the trucking regulatory agency to make safety its No. 1 priority and to revise the rules to decrease crashes caused by fatigue.

In 2003, the Bushites issued their new rules. Astonishingly, the rules increased the length of time a trucking corporation could make its drivers stay behind the wheel, raising the limit from 60 hours a week to 77. That's 11 hours a day!

The watchdog group Public Citizen sued, and in 2004, a federal appeals court struck down this irresponsible ruling. In 2005, however, under heavy lobbying from the industry, the agency essentially reissued its old regulation allowing seven consecutive 11-hour days on the road. Again, Public Citizen sued – and now a second appeals court has overturned the agency's actions.

The industry still insists that the long hours are warranted, because they make it cheaper to move stuff across the country. Yeah – unless you're one of the 5,000 people a year who pay with their lives! To keep informed on highway safety issues, visit Public Citizen at www.citizen.org.


CORPORATE AMERICAS

Goodness gracious, China – clean up your act!

The news is filled with horror stories of China's nasty exports coming to our shores – toy ovens that burn our children, seafood laden with toxins and antibiotics, tires that come apart on the highways, pet food that kills pets – and the list goes on. China must stop the exportation of these horrors, scream our corporate, political, and media leaders.

But who are the real culprits here? You can't have an exporter without an importer. Chinese businesses are not shipping billions of dollars worth of products to our shores uninvited. U.S. manufacturers and retailers are the ones importing this stuff and selling it to us. It's Wal-Mart, Hasbro, Black & Decker, Red Lobster, Toys "R" Us, Target, and other big brand names that have built this dependency on Chinese imports, not to mention profiting phenomenally from it.

These special interests are the ones that abandoned American producers and communities, transferring their investment capital to China. They leapt at Chinese labor that could be had for pennies an hour and made to toil in brutal sweatshop conditions that are legally and morally abominable to our people. These importers also cynically wink at the vile environmental contamination caused by the factories in China making products bound for American stores.

Let's be honest. China's trillion-dollar-a-year export economy is based squarely on the country's deliberate lack of humane standards. That's precisely why our CEOs rushed over there – every corner cut, every penny taken from workers and the environment, every product made on the cheap is pure profit for importers sitting so comfortably in their executive suites.

If you're outraged by shoddy, dangerous, and deadly products from China, don't point at the Chinese – point at America's corporate elite, and start saying "no" to their "cheap" import addiction.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

trucking firms, George W. Bush, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Public Citizen, China, Wal-Mart, Hasbro, Black & Decker, Red Lobster, Toys R Us, Target

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