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Federal Regulators Slow to Adopt Safety Legislation as Fatal Trucking Accidents Increase

Federal Regulators Slow to Adopt Safety Legislation as Fatal Trucking Accidents Increase

The commercial trucking industry, like any industry that poses risks to public safety, is heavily regulated. Through agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and other transportation departments, regulators enforce numerous laws that require truckers and trucking companies to take needed steps that reduce risks and prevent truck accidents. For example, the FMCSA has rules which address

  • Limits on the amount of time truckers can drive and be on-duty (HOS rules)
  • Cargo securement and hazardous material transportation
  • Vehicle maintenance and upkeep
  • Driver training, licensing, hiring, and retention
  • Drug and alcohol testing

These trucking regulations are clearly designed to reduce risks on public roadways, where pedestrians, cyclists, and passenger vehicles share roads which commercial carriers that can weight tens of thousands of pounds. As important as they may be, they’re unfortunately not always followed by truckers and operators who have legal obligations to comply with them – which can and does result in preventable truck accidents, as well as valid personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against the negligent and liable parties involved.

While civil lawsuits filed by victims and families following trucking accidents are invaluable to accountability, justice, and the securement of needed compensation to cover damages, they come after preventable accident have already occurred. That’s a significant point to keep in mind, especially when assessing the work of federal regulators tasked with overseeing the trucking industry, and making our roads safer places.

Rising Accident Rates, Little Legislative Action

Despite the many laws already in place, safety advocate groups and families of victims who paid the ultimate price in trucking wrecks say federal regulators are falling short in their efforts to pass and strengthen legislation that can help prevent fatal truck accidents, and minimize damages in accidents that do occur. That’s due in large part to some alarming statistics:

  • In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported nearly 4,400 deaths in truck accidents nationwide.
  • The 2016 trucking accident death toll was a 30% increase over fatalities reported in 2009.
  • Victims of trucking accidents are more likely to suffer catastrophic injuries than those involved in standard car accidents.

The data shows trucking collisions are having an increasingly devastating toll, and safety experts from non-profits and even public safety agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are responding by saying that more should be done. While the NTSB is a federal agency, it primarily exists to investigate major transportation accidents, such as airline crashes, train accidents, and commercial vehicle wrecks involving many casualties. It does not have the ability to pass and enforce legislation, but regularly makes recommendation to agencies that do have such power, like the NHTSA.

Unfortunately, those recommendations have continually fallen on deaf ears, even for safety issues the NTSB includes in its annual “Most Wanted” list of transportation improvements. For example, the NTSB and other advocates recommend a few solutions to stemming the tide of rising truck accident rates:

  • Adopting crash-avoidance technology – Listed atop the NTBS’s “Most Wanted” safety improvements, crash-avoidance technology has been proven to prevent and reduce the severity of commercial trucking accidents, especially those involving trucks that rear-end cars. Over the years, the NTSB has recommended crash-avoidance technology on more than 10 separate occasions, but federal regulators have still yet to make any proposals, let alone pass laws requiring it as a standard feature on big trucks.
  • Speeding – High speeds are a major factor behind increased risks of serious injuries and death in trucking accidents. For those making recommendations, that means there’s a need for regulators to better address speeding in commercial trucks, such as using speed-limiting and automatic brake technology, addressing the disparity in state law speed limits, and establishing federal limits for interstate trucks.
  • Less Bureaucracy – As regulators delay on passing new trucking safety regulations, other countries around the world have already adopted safety improvements long-recommended by the NTSB. The European Union, for example, has mandated crash-avoidance technology on commercial trucks for years, with proven and verifiable results. Experts state bureaucratic sluggishness may have a lot to do with the lack of any timely changes, and that rates of increasing roadway fatalities should prompt prioritization of the problem and immediate moves to enact change.
  • Lobbying – Lobbying, special interests, and the deluge of money in politics has long been cited as a major barrier to legislative changes that protect the public, rather than powerful corporations who care only about their bottom line. That’s true in the trucking industry, where lobbyists continually prevail in blocking new laws that would cost them money or time, even if those laws are proven to save lives.

Fighting for Truck Accident Victims Throughout Southern California

At Biren Law Group, our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys have represented many victims and families who suffered as a result of preventable auto accidents involving trucks and other commercial carriers. We know the devastation they can cause, and the importance of our government when it comes to passing and enforcing safety rules that protect us all, and prevent tragedies from happening in the future. Until that time, however, we know we play an important role in helping victims have a voice in the civil justice system, working to hold negligent truckers and operators accountable, and sending a message that safety should always be a top priority.

If you would like to discuss a recent truck accident case or any motor vehicle accident in Los Angeles or the surrounding areas of Southern California, please contact us for a free consultation.
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