Our country is experiencing a historic shakeup as a new administration takes over. With so many high profile changes, one that hasn’t received any attention, but is a top priority for me as a personal injury lawyer, is highway safety.
Just last month, lawmakers blocked important sleep rules for commercial drivers. That’s just the start of it.
In an interview, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board predicted that there will be ”an open season on safety in this coming Congress.” His comment appears to be right on the mark. The American Trucking Association has vowed to fight states that pass roadway safety measures for their residents and federal regulations that limit drive time and truck weight and length.
Sleep Rules for Truckers Put to Rest
I was pleased when the Federal Highway Safety Administration enacted tougher sleep regulations for truckers. They were long overdue. I have handled various cases where the driver’s logs proved that the truck driver had not gotten enough sleep. The WalMart driver who had been driving for over 24 hours straight before he rammed into the vehicle occupied by Tracy Morgan and his group was by no means the only crash like that, but it highlighted the serious danger of sleep-deprived 18 wheeler drivers.
Now those regulations have been put to, um, rest. A victory for trucking corporations that put dollars above sense but a huge loss for motorists.
As passage of the spending bill came down to the wire earlier this month, lawmakers added a provision that suspended the much-lauded commercial driver sleep regulations.
The result? Expect more tired truck drivers to be on the roads, and more crashes.
Push Drivers to the Brink of Exhaustion – With Longer, Heavier Trucks
After winning the “right” to eke out more work from their drivers, trucking companies also want their exhausted drivers carrying more weight in longer vehicles.
The American Trucking Association plans to seek limits of up to 90,000 lbs. and 33 feet. Currently, trucks can be up to 28 feet.
The trucking industry’s goal is to fit more goods in each trip. Sure, that will save them money, but it will come at a potentially lethal costs to safety.
Consider these facts:
- Primary symptoms of sleepiness are delayed reaction and nodding off.
- The longer and heavier a vehicle is, the more distance required to stop after hitting the brake.
- The greater the weight of the tractor-trailer, the more likely accident injuries will be severe or fatal to occupants of the smaller vehicle.
And yet the trucking industry wants to put more tired drivers behind even larger tractor-trailers. Obviously this is not a good idea that can only lead to one result — more tractor-trailer accidents and more deaths.
I urge our lawmakers to put our safety before the profits of the trucking industry. They must uphold regulations that require drivers to get enough sleep and that restrict 18-wheelers to a safe size.