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The Need for New Trucking Safety Rules

3,675 people died in truck-related accidents in the United States in 2010.

While other new traffic safety stats from 2010 are encouraging–although distracted driving remains a big problem–The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports an increase of more than 8% in fatalities in truck-involved accidents.

A new bill has been introduced in the Senate that would enhance current safety rules for commercial vehicles (like trucks and buses) in the U.S.

Officially known as The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, the bill makes important improvements to federal truck and bus safety standards – and it gives FMCSA more power to remove unsafe drivers or carriers.  One of the most important provisions reduces the number of hours truck drivers can drive in one day.

“ The simple truth is that the old rule is a serious safety concern for American drivers. As it stands, trucking companies have the ability to force their drivers to drive up to 11 hours in a 21 hour period. Additionally, the rule allows drivers to drive up to 88 hours in 8 days — that’s more than two full work weeks in just over a week! Under the existing rules, truck companies can force their truck drivers to drive extremely long hours without time off to sleep. Representative Bruce Braley; see the full editorial here.

In addition to the operating hours restriction, the new legislation would include these stipulations:

  • Electronic on-board recorders would be required on all trucks and buses that transport goods or people across state lines. This will help prevent truck driver fatigue, and enforce the reasonable restriction on the number of hours drivers can operate.
  • New U.S. trucking and bus companies will have to do more to demonstrate they have a safety plan before beginning operations.
  • The Department of Transportation’s registration process will require an applicant to pass a safety proficiency exam.
  • FMCSA’s ability to crack down on “reincarnated carriers” (carriers that have been put out of service but don’t shut down) will be enhanced. Recently, FMCSA shut down an Oregon bus company, RC Investment Inc. The company failed to use properly licensed drivers, did not perform the proper drug and alcohol tests on their drivers, and didn’t have the vehicles inspected regularly. The Oregon –based business did not cease operations as required, and will now face legal actions.

The increase in truck accident deaths in 2010 demonstrates the necessity of the new legislation for enhancing public safety. The proposed bill is currently under review, with a decision expected by the end of the year.

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