FMCSA May Be Cracking Down on Unsafe Trucks, Drivers, and Companies
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has an abundance of new proposed rules for the trucking industry. These new rules will specifically target roadside inspections, automatic emergency braking systems (AEBs), and electronic logging devices (ELDs). Between March and June 2021, the agency plans to issue formal notices along with at least four proposals.
The goal of these new rules? To get unsafe trucks and drivers off the road. Hopefully, these proposed rules assist with the reduction of trucking accidents. It is no secret that driver error is the primary cause of trucking accidents. A majority of negligent actions that truck drivers engage in can cause fatal and serious traffic accidents, but so can bad policies by trucking companies. As such, the agency also plans to collect information on how to identify unfit trucking companies in a more effective manner. It will use this information, such as inspection data and available safety data, to keep dangerous trucking companies off the roads.
Today, we want to take a closer look at each element of the FMCSA’s proposed rules.
Electronic logging devices
One of the proposals includes several changes to the current ELD rule that went into effect in phases from 2016 to 2019. Electronic logging devices keep track of truckers’ hours of operation, to ensure they are following hours of service (HOS) regulations. In order to establish that they are compliant with the HOS regulations, truckers use their ELDs to keep a Record of Duty Status (RODS). When the current ELD rule was first introduced to the trucking industry, there were several concerns from different parties.
One major concern expressed by drivers who participated in a member survey by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, where drivers expressed that using ELDs led to feelings of “being rushed to take breaks when they did not need them and forced to drive when they would rather take a break.” But a few members said that the use of ELDs has reduced the amount of pressure that carriers and shippers have placed on truckers to make unrealistic delivery schedules. Members also expressed that the ELDs were better equipped to record hours of sitting in detention, which also helps reduce that pressure.
Another concern came from small business owner-operators who were worried that the requirement of ELD use in trucks would increase the rate of driver harassment from fleet owners. Some truck drivers said they felt harassed by the device itself, saying that the use of ELDs prevents them from making even the tiniest of mistakes.
Automatic emergency braking systems
One of the proposals introduced next year plans to support an identical rule that will be introduced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Both proposed rules plan to require all heavy trucks to use AEB equipment.
The Institute for Safer Trucking (IST) defines AEB as “a technology that mitigates or prevents a crash by applying the brakes if a driver does not respond to alerts of an imminent collision or supplements a driver’s braking if it is deemed insufficient.” Per IST, this tech has existed for certain weight classes of trucks for decades, yet it has never been required until now.
The NHTSA plans to introduce its rulemaking proposal by April of 2022. While the FMCSA has not issued a specific date, the agency plans to introduce its proposal shortly after.
Roadside inspections for underride guards
Under the new infrastructure law, States can continue conducting roadside safety inspections for large trucks, but the big news is a new rule that requires rear impact guards on trucks like tractor-trailers. What the FMSCA is proposing now is better inspection standards for these guards. It is also seeking information about how it can best support law enforcement efforts to keep roads safe through roadside inspections.
Will these new rules keep people safer?
Each one of these new proposals is aimed at preventing truck accidents and making roads safer, and we’ve no doubt that, to some extent, they will. Safer trucks are better for everyone (including truckers) and holding carrier companies accountable is important.
Still, the leading cause of truck accidents is negligence, either by the truck driver or another driver. The FMSCA says they’re targeting “unfit” truckers, but their new rules don’t seem to address the most pressing acts of negligence.
Driver fatigue is one of the most harmful driving behaviors. When a driver operates a vehicle while drowsy, he or she is at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Fatigue lessens the truck driver’s judgment and reaction time. The size and weight of the commercial truck can cause significant injuries for the truck driver and other motorists.
There are federal regulations that require trucking companies to test their truck drivers for alcohol and drug use. Still, there are some unfit trucking companies that allow truck drivers to operate commercial trucks while intoxicated. The FMCSA reported that between September 2019 and August 1, 2020, there were 28,445 active truckers who tested positive for alcohol and drug use at least once.
Some of the common substances that truck drivers are known for abusing are marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and oxymorphone. These substances are known for causing serious side effects such as impaired memory, increased blood pressure, insomnia, mood disturbances, anxiety, and hallucinations.
Blind spot monitoring
Driving while tired, driving while intoxicated, and distracted driving increase the possibility of failing to monitor blind spots. Failing to monitor blind spots also contributes to serious and fatal traffic accidents. The blind spots of a commercial truck are already larger than the blind spots of motor vehicles, requiring truck drivers to turn their entire bodies to check their blind spots. When truck drivers fail to accurately check their blind spots, they are in danger of changing lanes prematurely and sideswiping other motor vehicles, as well as causing other serious injuries for motorists.
At Biby Law Firm, our Tulsa truck accident lawyers have successfully litigated trucking cases involving serious injuries and deaths in courts all across Oklahoma. We will make sure that you or your loved ones get answers about why they were injured or killed in a collision. Call our experienced Tulsa truck accident lawyers at 918-574-8458 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We don’t get paid unless we win your case.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.