Congress passed the Highway Reauthorization bill on July 2nd, which is great news for drivers who share the roadway with heavy trucks (which is to say all of us). New trucking safety provisions are included in the bill to keep the highways safer, including:
- A mandate for a requirement of Electronic On-board Recorders (EOBRs) in all commercial vehicles;
- A two-year study on the safety and infrastructure effects of truck size and weight;
- Provisions to address commercial driver safety: including driver medical qualifications, operator training, drivers’ licensing, and the implementation of other requirements and driver information systems;
- Provisions to establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for commercial vehicle drivers;
- Provisions addressing the financial responsibility of freight-forwarders and brokers by directing rulemakings to establish minimum financial solvency and bonding requirements for these entities; and,
- Provisions to study the training of hazmat operators and the handling and inspection of hazmat materials.
Accidents involving commercial trucks (including semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, dump trucks and buses) can be devastating, as well as extremely complicated. And, obviously, a 3,000 pound car is no match for a 10,000 pound truck, often resulting in fatalities. Truck vs. car crashes can be caused by many factors including truck driver fatigue, loading company negligence, defective roadways, and brake malfunction.
According to NHTSA, one out of nine traffic fatalities in 2008 resulted from a collision involving a large truck. In 2008, 380,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) were involved in traffic crashes in the United States. A total of 4,229 people died (11% of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2008) and an additional 90,000 were injured in those crashes.
At issue is the dichotomy between vigilance with regard to safety, and the profitability of the trucking company. The more time the truck and trucker spend driving and meeting or exceeding goals, and the less time spent on maintenance and monitoring of equipment, the more profitable the truck will be.
Truck drivers work very long hours, face unrealistic deadlines, and have to meet tight, rigorous schedules. Because of this fact, truck driver fatigue is one of the main reasons why truck accidents occur in the United States. Truck driver fatigue can severely impair the judgment of an individual who is behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle. While laws already exist to curb fatigued driving, these laws are often thwarted or ignored. But, with the safety of the driving public in mind, the above bill’s provisions clearly seeks to add additional safeguards and provide protective oversight to deter trucking companies from pushing the envelope, while giving authorities greater license to stop these trucks in their tracks when they do not follow the rules of the road.