Will Our Highways Be Safer With New Highway Law?

Truck on Highway

Provisions Improve Road, Auto and Truck Safety, But There Are Major Problems With New Law

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act just passed the U.S. House and Senate and now goes to the president for his signature. The law adds $305 billion of funding into roads, bridges, rail, trucking and other badly needed transit projects and safety measures over the next five years. But the Obama administration had hoped for at least $400 million.

The new law includes measures that will increase auto and roadway safety and hold automakers accountable when they violate the law. This is long overdue considering the horrific conduct of GM, Takata and Trinity Industries, among many other corporations that have willingly injured motorists with their defective vehicles, seat belts and guard rails, then covered up evidence of their malfeasance. 

The FAST Act increases roadway and vehicular safety by

  • Increasing from $35 million to $105 million the cap on penalties when automakers violate vehicle safety regulations. 
  • Allowing employees of automakers who report whistleblower information to collect up to 30 percent of the penalties recovered by federal agencies.
  • Creating a fund for states to more effectively issues auto recall information to consumers.
  • Barring auto rental companies from renting vehicles that are under recall until the necessary repairs have been made.

But the Act’s Truck Safety Provisions Fall Short

Unfortunately, the law falls way short of protecting all of us motorists sharing the road with tractor-trailers. 

For example, the law creates a pilot program that allows teenagers as young as 18 years old to operate commercial trucks and buses if they are military veterans. At least this provision was scaled back from the original language that allowed any 18 year-old to drive a truck, but it is not likely that an 18 year-old is a better driver because he served in the military.

Another provision hides trucking company safety scores from public view, creating dangerous non-transparency. Currently, we can all view the numbers of citations, drug violations and accidents that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) collects and records about drivers and trucking corporations. 

Lawmakers resisted the trucking company’s lobbying efforts to permit longer, heavier — and much more dangerous — tractor-trailers on our nation’s highways. Corporate giants like FedEx and Amazon fought hard for the opportunity to put double 33-foot long tractor-trailers on the roads, upping the current restriction to double 28-foot combos, which would have increased the risk of death or serous injuries from accidents with these monster trucks.

One safety provision left out of the bill would have mandated a study of the effect of long commutes on truck drivers. The senator who proposed the measure was motivated by the horrific 18-wheeler accident that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend. The Wal-Mart driver responsible had driven 800 miles from his home and had not slept for 24 hours before crashing into their van. 

You Deserve Safety on the Road 

The FAST Act has some good and some bad provisions. But, the fact that you deserve to be safe on the road has not changed. 

Berenson Injury Law fights for you rights to justice against the truck driver, trucking corporation, automaker or other negligent party who caused your crash. 

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