Regulatory Changes in the Trucking Industry Threaten Motorist Safety

August 1, 2019 Truck Accident Blog

Changing Regulations Could Lead to More Truck Accidents

Safety advocates who understand trucking law are worried about likely regulatory changes that could make the roads more dangerous for everyone. In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that trucking accident deaths were at the highest point they had been at in 29 years. Since statistics show a growing safety problem, the potential relaxation of certain trucking industry regulations could have deadly consequences for motorists.

How Regulatory Changes May Increase Safety Risks

Many in the trucking industry have long had animosity toward federal hours-of-service rules. For example, the Insurance Journal recounted a story of a truck driver who was traveling back to his home in Pennsylvania. The man was just minutes from his house. However, he had reached the maximum driving time for the day. According to the law, he had to stop. He could not drive again for at least 10 hours. The author of the article indicated that the man may have been awake enough to drive the extra few minutes to get home. Using rare examples such as this, lobbyists and a few organizations are hoping to relax the existing regulations.

If trucking regulations are relaxed, the maximum number of hours that truckers can drive each day may increase. While lobbyists have been pushing for more liberal revisions, safety advocates have been trying to at least maintain the current laws. Some would like to see even shorter daily driving limits. As safety proponents have pointed out, softening the rules could make the roads more dangerous. Advocates say that truckers putting in longer days of driving will make them more susceptible to drowsiness. The suggested changes come at a time when driver fatigue is already a rampant problem. If drivers become more fatigued, they will put all motorists in greater danger on the roads. Safety advocacy groups have also emphasized the growing number of fatal crashes in comparison with the decrease in overall traffic deaths.

Safety Advocates State Their Problems With the Possible Changes

The president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety was skeptical about the suggested changes. She feared that flexibility would mean deregulation, and she said that the existing allowance of 11 driving hours per day already seemed too excessive. The reason why she and so many other figures are fighting against more flexibility is because not all incidents are like the one mentioned in the previous section. Instead of just occasionally driving a few extra minutes when they are close to home, many truck drivers may drive a longer time each day.

Since the National Transportation Safety Board thought that driver fatigue was a big enough problem to put it on its 2019-2020 list of top safety improvements to focus on, safety advocates are especially upset about the lobbyists’ push for lighter regulations. Many of them say that proponents for more relaxed regulations are putting profits and the interests of big companies before the safety of both truck drivers and regular motorists.

The problem of driver fatigue is not new. Over 10 years ago, the Department of Transportation released a study that showed that 13% of truck drivers were fatigued when accidents occurred. Current accident statistics also clearly show that fewer driving hours would be better than more.

Recent Road Safety Statistics Support Shorter Driving Limits

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In 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported 4,657 fatal crashes that involved large trucks. This number represented an increase of 10% from the previous year’s total. In the accidents, at least 60 of the drivers were fatigued or asleep. This may seem like a relatively low number. According to the NTSB, however, driver fatigue is largely underreported on police accident reports.

Not every reported truck crash in 2017 had just one fatality. The total number of people who were killed in truck crashes was 4,761. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there has been a 12% increase in truck accident deaths during the past 10 years. Statistics show that more than 70% of these deaths are people not in large trucks. Under 20% were truck drivers or passengers. The rest of the victims were cyclists, pedestrians and other people who were not operating motor vehicles.

Another problematic trend was the specific increase of deaths among occupants of other vehicles. The number increased by almost 10% between 2016 and 2017. This trend shows that danger is already growing for passenger vehicle drivers. The NHTSA looks at every detail of truck crash reports when it sorts and records data.

Knowing When and Where the Biggest Risks Lie

After reading these statistics, you may be wondering if there are times or places that are tied to a higher volume of deadly truck accidents. These were some significant findings from the NHTSA report:

  • More than 25% of fatal truck accidents occurred on interstates.
  • Under 10% of deadly truck accidents happened in work zones.
  • Nearly 60% of fatal truck accidents occurred in rural areas.
  • On weekdays, more than 70% of fatal truck accidents occurred between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Texas was the state with the highest number of fatal truck accidents.
  • The west-south-central and west-north-central United States had the most fatal truck crashes.
  • Almost 80% of deadly truck accidents happened on weekdays.
  • Fatal truck accidents comprised 8.8% of all deadly wrecks in the United States.
  • In 17 individual states, large trucks were involved in more than 10% of all crashes.

How You Can Be Safer on the Road

One key idea to remember is to always assume that truck drivers are drowsy. In addition to this, you can better protect yourself by remembering these tips:

  • When passing truck drivers on the interstate, try to pass them as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Do not drive slowly in a truck driver’s blind spots.
  • Stay three to four car lengths behind any truck driver.
  • If it does not compromise your safety, call the police or highway patrol to report a weaving or sleepy truck driver.

Holding Negligent Parties Accountable

Although safety precautions can reduce your risks, they cannot prevent all accidents. Some motorists may be hit by an oncoming truck. Others could be sideswiped when they try to pass safely and quickly. If you have been injured in a truck accident, you need the help of a dedicated attorney who understands trucking law. A truck accident lawyer can help you protect your interests and your future. You may need money for long-term injuries, living expenses and more. Many people who have been injured in truck accidents sustain injuries that make it difficult or impossible to return to work. If you’re unable to work, you’ll need adequate income replacement, which disability insurance alone cannot accomplish.

At Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P., we understand that each client’s needs are unique. That’s why we’ll work toward an optimal outcome that meets your specific needs. If you were injured in a truck accident and live in New Jersey, please contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation. You can reach us at our New Brunswick office at (732) 247-3600. To reach us at our Somerville office, please call (908) 448-2560.

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