- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

The New Britain (Conn.) Herald, June 11, 2104

At the same time that Congress is considering whether to relax work rules for freight haulers, a truck driver’s lack of sleep is being blamed for the highway crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed Connecticut resident James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.

Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead on the New Jersey Turnpike and then swerved to avoid a crash.

Instead, his rig smashed into the back of Morgan’s chauffeured limo bus, killing comedian McNair and injuring Morgan and three others.

Authorities said that Roper hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours before the accident.

This comes at a time when a proposed change to federal regulations would effectively let drivers put in as many as 82 hours a week behind the wheel.

The change is backed by the trucking industry and opposed by safety advocates and the Obama administration.

An amendment that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), would repeal a requirement that drivers take a 34-hour break, including no driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on two consecutive days.

“This regulation dumps concentrated amounts of commercial traffic onto the highway system at 5:01 a.m. Monday, when people are trying to get to their offices and their businesses … and deliver children to schools,” says Phil Byrd, chairman of the American Trucking Associations.

The senator and trucking industry officials said it is safer for truckers to drive at night when there is less traffic.

Those who oppose the change point out that nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Do you want to share the road with a tired trucker? We didn’t think so.

The Republican of Springfield (Mass.), June 12, 2014

It shouldn’t take 40 years to pay for college.

But it can. It sometimes does.

So many students these days, especially those who’ve gone on to do post-graduate work, are getting out of school with a debt burden that can haunt them for decades.

There are plenty of people in their 60s who are still paying off their student loans. And there are lots in their 20s, the newly minted graduates, who face such a mountain of debt that they couldn’t even consider starting a family or buying a home.

Thankfully, the White House has made a sensible move to cap the amount that students have to pay toward their loans. President Barack Obama signed an executive order that will limit loan repayments to 10 percent of a borrower’s monthly income.

It’s a positive step, but there’s only so much a president can do by himself.

What was really needed was congressional action. But Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have allowed borrowers to refinance their older, higher-interest student loan debt at today’s lower rates.

Not so, said Republicans. Because funds for the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would have come from an increase in taxes on the wealthiest members of our society.

And too many of today’s Republicans in Congress wouldn’t even take a look at a bill that would tax those who can most afford it.

In the old days, there was a certain kind of conservative, those of the hidebound, old-school set, who couldn’t care less about access for the many. If you couldn’t afford to go to college, it wasn’t their problem. It was because your family wasn’t rich enough. Plain and simple. End of story.

These days, members of that crowd have barely changed their tune. Those who can’t afford to pay off their student loans are given no more of a chance than were their predecessors.

College is supposed to teach students lessons that last a lifetime, not burden them with debt that sticks around just as long.

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