Congress in December 2016 showed that it favors deregulation over safety when it blocked Obama administration safety rules aimed at keeping tired truckers off the roads. It also pledged to try to block state laws that require additional rest breaks for truckers beyond what federal rules require when it meets in January.
Congress Rolls Back Weekly Hours of Service Rule
In 2013, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) set down Hours of Service Rules for Truck Drivers, limiting a driver to working no more than 70 hours a week, with an eleven hour driving limit per day, with the remainder of that time spent sleeping and/or resting off duty. Congress’ action in December has caused the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to suspend the 70 hour a week driving limit, allowing tired truckers to stay behind the wheel, placing other motorists at risk. Most truckers, who are paid by the mile, favor an extended work week, and a faster delivery means more money for motor carriers and shippers.
More Potential for Damage from Trucks than Passenger Vehicles
Even though large trucks are responsible for only 3% of injury-causing motor vehicle accidents, due to their large size and heavy weight they typically cause much greater harm than ordinary traffic accidents. Over the past two decades, the number of truck accidents has increased by 20%. In 2002, 4,897 individuals died and 130,000 people were injured in crashes involving a large truck.
Truck drivers are trained to watch for vehicles that might enter the “no-zone,” which is an area where a passenger car disappears from the truck driver’s view. There are front, side, rear, backing up, and right turn no-zones. Accidents between cars and large trucks are 60% more likely to occur when a car is in a no-zone.
Trucker Fatigue Number One Cause for Crashes
According to a recent study released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the most common cause of truck accidents is driver error due to fatigue and sleep deprivation. Fatigue causes truck drivers to fall asleep, be inattentive, misjudge gaps between vehicles, and ignore the signs of impending dangers or overreact to them.
Rollback of Trucking Safety Regulation Sign of More Future Deregulation
Safety advocates are concerned that the recent congressional decision signals the start of a broad rollback of transportation safety regulations at the start of the New Year, once the political pendulum swings in the favor of industry. Congress has already pledged to try to block state laws that require additional rest breaks for truckers beyond what federal rules require. Without political checks and balances, safety advocates fear the trend will continue toward more safety-sacrificing deregulation. Shippers and some areas of the trucking industry will probably also push to increase the weight limit on trucks to more than 90,000 pounds and increase the length of individual trailers in double-trailer combinations from 28 feet to 33 feet.
“It’s going to be very tough because the companies really care about the cost. They don’t care about the safety no matter what they say,” said safety advocate Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator and president emeritus of Public Citizen.
For information about current Federal and State Trucking Laws, see our website at www.portlandtruckaccidentlawyer.com.