New Trucking Regulation Could Reduce Safety Violations

Every year, truck accidents on U.S. roads and highways claim approximately 4,000 lives and cause tens of thousands of injuries. These trucks are far larger than other vehicles on the road, and they therefore pose a serious danger to other drivers. For this and other reasons, commercial truck drivers must make safety the top priority at all times.

Unfortunately, many truck drivers and trucking companies fail to abide by basic safety regulations that could prevent accidents and save lives. A good example is drowsy driving. A fatigued driver can be as dangerous behind the wheel as a drunk driver, which is why federal regulators have created what are known as hours-of-service rules. These rules limit the number of consecutive hours in a driving shift and the number of hours driven per week. They also mandate regular rest periods. Most fatigue-related truck accidents involve some sort of hours-of-service violation.

Although truck drivers sometimes choose to violate HOS rules on their own, there are also times when drivers are coerced into doing so by the trucking companies they work for. Economic pressures (including the threat of being fired) force some drivers to stay on the road far longer than is safe or legal.

Thankfully, truckers who are put in this difficult position may now have some protection. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently enacted a new federal rule that imposes steep fines on carriers, shippers and brokers that coerce their drivers to violate safety regulations. The drivers themselves report the alleged violations to the FMCSA. And if the allegations prove to be credible, the company can be slapped with a $16,000 fine.

This new rule is by no means a perfect solution to fatigued driving or other safety issues. But it is, at the very least, an honest attempt to enforce safety regulations in what can be a very dangerous industry.

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