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.
Is Congress working to protect us? No. Congress is actually considering relaxing safety requirements. Who do our elected representative really serve? Are lobbyists and their corporate money at the root of these proposed changes? Absolutely. I’ve discussed these proposed safety rule changes in earlier posts. We should continue discussing them in order to keep our roadways safe.
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 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. Terrible. If passed, they would put our families and neighbors at risk. Double trailers? Heavier loads? I have resolved two separate personal injury cases in just the last six months where the truck drivers were unable to stop or avoid the collisions because of their heavy loads. In one of these 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 traumatic brain injury suffered by comedian Tracy Morgan 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 was not a one-time event. It is a daily occurrence on our highways. Yet, it should not be. 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? For that matter, why should any company be allowed to hide its safety record? Real justice requires transparency and accountability.
Trucking lobbyists not only want Congress to relax the rules, they also want the ability to hide the truth about safety. Their trucking clients want to hide their true safety records. 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. A driver who should have never been allowed back into a big rig caused the crash! Instead of relaxing rules, Congress should strengthen them. Instead of giving trucking companies a license to harm, our government should enforce safety.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we represent clients injured in commercial trucking accidents. These cases are unique. If you have questions about a commercial truck crash, let us know. We are happy to answer your questions or discuss the special safety rules for large trucks. Consultations are always free and confidential.