Commercial trucking is a large sector of the overall U.S. economy. These trucks are responsible for movement of slightly over 70% of all freight. There is an estimated 10.55 billion tons of freight moved, which consumes roughly 398 billion gallons of fuel. The industry is regulated by a central federal agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and is principally guided by the provisions of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Since assuming control, the Trump Administration has largely upheld its commitment to abolish regulations it deems to be a burden on industry or that hinders economic growth. The commercial trucking industry has recently seen dozens of rules in development postponed and existing regulations eliminated.
Thus far, the trucking industry appears to have good rapport with the President and industry leaders have been welcomed at the White House. According to Chris Spear, who represents the American Trucking Associations, the new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, began immediately meeting with trucking officials after assuming the position. John Risch, representing the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, describes the industry as being in “an era of little” regulation.
Regulation: Electronic Speed Control
In 2016, the government began considering a requirement that commercial trucks be equipped with software that electronically creates a speed limitation. Proponents cited that nearly 500 deaths would be avoided annually and over $400 million in costs would be saved. Trucks traveling at 55 mph or higher are involved in accidents leading to 1,100 fatalities annually. Opponents were successful in attacking the prospective law by stating that the potential speed differentials it would create between large trucks and automobiles would make accidents more likely. The administration recently delayed this initiative.
Regulation: Sleep Disorder Testing
Several truck accidents in recent years were attributed to undiagnosed sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that prevents restful sleep. Robert Sumwalt, chairman of The National Transportation Safety Board, says far too many drivers are operating while they are very tired. The previous administration was actively implementing a sleep disorder screening program for drivers; however, the Department of Transportation (DOT) recently canceled it.
Regulation: Advanced Braking Systems
The DOT posted a notice encouraging recommendations of regulations that should be eliminated. Transportation industry feedback was tremendous among those in trucking, rail, airline, auto manufacturing, and others. A 2015 law that trains carrying flammable oil use more advanced braking systems was among the first abolished. Opponents of this measure said the cost of compliance with the requirement exceeded the minimal increase in safety it afforded.
Regulation: Hours-of-Service (HOS)
Mandatory implementation of electronic-logging-devices capable of automatically documenting the amount of driving time is well underway. This system replaces the use of antiquated handwritten log books that were notoriously inaccurate for documenting time. Todd Spencer, on behalf of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, explained that the rules allow a maximum of 11 hours driving per day in any 14-hour period and then 10 hours of off-duty time is required. These restrictions do not take into account the delays that occur due to shippers, receivers, and traffic congestion.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)
The supporters of the ELD program, which is in the second phase of implementation, say many truckers falsify the written logbooks and end up causing fatigue-based accidents. Owner-operators and smaller firms are struggling with the requirement. They have cited the expense of the devices and the inability to have flexibility when unforeseen occurrences cause travel delays.
Dangers of Truck Accidents
Occupants of passenger vehicles involved in collisions with tractor-trailers are likely to face catastrophic injuries or death. Some of the common examples of trucker negligence include:
- Exceeding the daily or weekly driving time limits
- Carrying excessive loads or those improperly loaded, capable of creating massive shifts in weight
- Impaired driving (alcohol or drugs)
- Traveling at excessive speeds
- Not adhering to vehicle service and maintenance requirements.
A loaded tractor-trailer may weigh over 20 times more than your vehicle. Accidents that involve commercial trucks are among the most likely to be deadly. These new regulations — or lack thereof — may lead to more accidents on the road. Injury victims should see assistance from a personal injury lawyer that has a track-record of negotiating and litigating with these insurers of commercial vehicles, who are likely to aggressively defend their interests.