Tractor-Trailer Safety Rules May Be Weakened Under Federal Highway Funding Bill
Among the many battles being currently fought in the U.S. Congress is one that could have a serious impact on your safety. At issue is whether regulations on tractor-trailers will be weakened – and the dangers of more big-rig accidents, injuries, and deaths increased – in response to heavy lobbying by the trucking industry.
For a long while, Congress has been unable to reach any consensus on how to address the serious issues facing the country’s highways, roads, and bridges, many of which are desperately in need of vital repairs and improvements. The money for maintaining this infrastructure comes from the federal Highway Trust Fund. Instead of coming up with a long-term agreement to keep the fund from running out of money and implementing a plan to fix things, Congress has kept passing short-term, stop-gap funding bills.
A number of efforts to come up with a long-term, six-year funding plan are working their way through Congress. However, this effort, as well as other pieces of proposed legislation, also contain significant changes to the tractor-trailer safety rules and regulations that govern trucks on the nation’s highways.
Bigger Trucks, Less Rest, and Younger Drivers
Three of the biggest proposed changes, backed by the American Trucking Association and trucking companies such as UPS and FedEx, include:
- allowing trucking companies to put two 33-foot trailers behind one truck, up from the current limit of two 28-foot trailers, even in states that have prohibited such trucks
- reducing the current required rest period for truck drivers
- allowing 18-year-olds to drive tractor-trailers
Harrowing Tractor-Trailer Statistics
These proposed changes have raised concerns among highway safety advocates as well as state and local officials who believe that they will only make America’s highways more dangerous. A recent New York Times editorial attacked the proposals, citing these harrowing statistics:
- more Americans will be killed in the U.S. by large trucks this year than have died in commercial airline accidents over the past 45 years
- deaths in crashes involving tractor-trailers rose 17 percent between 2009-2013
- almost 4,000 people were killed in big-rig crashes in 2013 alone
- the economic cost of truck and bus crashes is $99 billion a year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Texas actually leads the nation in trucking accidents, suffering 493 fatal big-rig collisions in 2013, equaling 12 percent of the 3,906 people killed that year in tractor-trailer accidents.
Given the dangers we already face from 18-wheeler and commercial trucking accidents, any efforts that could potentially increase the risks of serious injury or death from these huge vehicles should be approached with caution.
At Greening Law, P.C., we provide aggressive, compassionate and experienced representation for individuals and families throughout the Dallas- Ft. Worth metroplex who have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a trucking accident. We are dedicated to our clients’ well-being and getting them the compensation and resources they need to recover. Please call us at (972) 934-8900 or fill out our online form to discuss your situation and learn about your options.