According to a recent Salon article:
Big rig crashes kill nearly 4,000 Americans each year and injure more than 85,000. Since 2009, fatalities involving large trucks have increased 17 percent. Injuries have gone up 28 percent.
Salon then states the obvious assumption:
Given these numbers, you might expect Congress to be agitating for tighter controls on big rigs.
Instead, Congress is considering relaxing safety requirements. Lobbyist money is at the root of the proposed changes. I discussed these proposed safety rule changes in previous posts New Rules Risk Lives On The Highway and a later update.
What are some of the proposed changes pushed by trucking industry lobbyists? They include:
- Allowing longer, double trailers
- Raising weight limits for trailers loaded with cargo
- Giving states permission to lower the minimum age of commercial drivers from 21 to 18
- Eliminating some rest requirements for truckers who have worked long, consecutive shifts
- Halting efforts to raise trucking liability insurance requirements from amounts set decades ago
- Removing safety ratings of trucking firms from the internet (and public view)
These proposals are a terrible idea. If passed, they would put families at risk on our highways. Double trailers. Heavier loads. We have resolved two cases this year involving disabling personal injury where the truck driver was unable to stop or avoid collision because of his heavy load. In one of the cases, the truck driver had been cited on several prior occasions for operating his log truck at an excessive weight. Do we really want double trailers in the lane next to us on our highways? Do we really want heavier trucks that are unable to slow or stop in time to avoid a deadly collision? Of course not.
Eliminating rest requirements. For months, the severe personal injuries suffered by comedian Tracy Morgan and the death of his friend made national news. The resulting investigation revealed a truck driver too fatigued from far too many hours on the road. What happened to Tracy Morgan has become a daily occurrence on our highways. Yet, it should not be. I noted in my prior posts how a recent survey of truck drivers revealed half of them had fallen asleep at least once while driving in the prior year. Longer hours without mandatory rest creates an unacceptable danger on our highways.
Why should trucking companies using our road be allowed to hide their safety records? Trucking lobbyists not only want Congress to relax the rules, they also want the ability to hide the true records (and costs) created by a lack of safety. We recently deposed a truck driver who had negligently caused multiple collisions in a big rig. Each time, the company allowed him back into its truck. He was not disciplined. He was not reprimanded. He continued to drive until he collided with our client. That client now suffers permanent disability and chronic pain – from a driver who should not have been allowed back into a big rig. Instead of relaxing the rules, Congress should act responsibly in an effort to strengthen the rules and to make our highways safer.