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What Congress Could Do to Make Our Roads Safer from Big Rigs

We recently took a look at a New York Times article titled “The Trucks Are Killing Us.” The op-ed showcased how dangerous tractor-trailers are and the devastation they have been causing on our highways. The author pointed out that despite the dangers related to these tractor-trailers, Congress is considering rolling back the safety precautions previously imposed on the trucking industry. Among other measures, Congress is discussing:

  • Allowing truck drivers to work 82 hours a week, up from 70 hours over eight days;
  • Reducing investment in wireless technology designed to improve the monitoring of drivers and vehicles; and
  • Lowering the minimum age from 21 to 18 for drivers who travel from state to state.

We recently shared our thoughts as to why this would make our highways so much more dangerous.

Don’t Just Say “No” to Bad Ideas; Let’s Say “Yes” to Better Ones

Of course, many of our congressional leaders are taking the position that private industry—in this case, the big trucking companies—is a better regulator than the government. We can’t leap on that bandwagon in this case. The trucking industry is driven by profits; protecting public safety and the public interest isn’t its top concern.

Instead of going along with Congress and its “hands-off” approach, we should look for ideas that actually have some chance at making roads safer. The Truck Safety Coalition, for instance, has come up with a wish list of actions that Congress could (and should) undertake. Some of the ideas we think are worth considering:

  • Freeze truck size and weight. Congress should keep the current freeze on longer combination vehicles and maintain the current federal size and weight limits for tractor-trailers. Bigger and heavier trucks are simply more dangerous. They have poorer braking and are subject to more rollover crashes. According to various studies, longer trucks have lower safety margins.
  • Freeze or reduce hours of service. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Transportation Safety Board, fatigue is repeatedly cited as a major factor in truck crashes. A longer work week for truckers could only result in more traffic accidents.
  • Require use of electronic onboard recorders for every truck and bus. Many trucks use paper logbooks to keep their hours of service. With less oversight, false entries are prevalent. Electronic record-keeping will keep drivers and their employers honest and will reduced the danger posed by overworked truckers.
  • Increase minimum insurance levels. Minimum levels of insurance for big-rig trucks are currently $750,000…and $5 million on motorcoaches. These levels have not been increased in over thirty years and are very low in comparison to the financial devastation caused to the victims of trucking accidents. Increasing the minimum limits to $5 million per incident and for transporters of hazardous materials to $15 million would allow victims the chance for a fair recovery. Requiring the trucking industry to cover these losses—instead of leaving the injured person and his family holding the bag—would encourage the industry to strengthen its efforts in making our roads safer.
  • Reducing speed limits for trucks by setting speed governors at 65 mph. When tractor-trailer trucks travel at rates over 55 miles per hour, there is a significantly increased risk that the truck will rollover or jackknife. Also, trucks traveling at 65 mph have almost twice the force of impact in a crash at 55 mph. Using technology to cut down on speed just makes sense.

The Potential for Laws to Prevent Truck Accidents

Congress could get to work tomorrow to make our roads safer…as opposed to more dangerous. Critics claim that these changes would be too costly and expensive; however, when considering the value of human life, and our health and well-being, and that of our families, it seems to be the least that can be done.

If you or a family member has been injured due to a tractor-trailer accident, please contact the lawyers at Holland & Usry by calling 864.582.0416 or toll free at 888.230.1841 for a free confidential consultation. There is no obligation. We’d like the chance to hear your story and to offer our perspective on your situation.

 

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