The trucking industry has always had a difficult time with regulatory agencies. Though trucking is a $700 billion industry, companies only make about $.06 net profit for every dollar—and that’s in a good year. Increasing accountability and safety measures (like those mentioned below) initially cost money, leading to complaints about short-term losses.
Here’s the bottom line, though:
When trucks crash, other drivers pay the price. People should not subsidize the trucking industry with their lives.
Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the following occurred in 2014:
- More than 100,000 people suffered injuries in large truck accidents.
- More than 330,000 large trucks were involved in traffic collisions.
- 3,660 people died in truck crashes during 2014, 11% of all motor vehicle deaths.
- From 2009 to 2014, the number of people who died in truck crashes increased by 16%.
Unfortunately, while we refer to them as "accidents," there are actually an astonishing number of recurring causes. If these causes were properly addressed, it is possible that the rate of truck crashes could decrease.
Taking Steps Toward a Better Future
At Arnold & Itkin, we believe is it crucial that better regulations are passed to protect our nation's drivers. We therefore support all efforts to make this happen. Unfortunately, lobbyists for trucking companies are trying to undo safety measures while adding new allowances that would make trucks even more dangerous. We oppose the efforts of the trucking industry to rollback safety changes all for the sake of personal profit.
Some issues that should be addressed include the following:
- Truck Size & Weight: Currently, trucking companies are pressing for laws that would allow them to drive heavier, larger trucks. They would be able to transport goods in less trips, which would save money. However, profit should not take precedence over safety. The larger a truck and the heavier its cargo, the more potentially dangerous it is.
- Hours-of-Service (HOS): It is no surprise that fatigued truckers are one of the most prevalent dangers on the road today. To help combat this issue, hours-of-service regulations have passed that limit the number of hours drivers can work.
- Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs): Currently, hours-of-service are monitored by logbooks that are maintained by the drivers themselves. Unfortunately, these logbooks are easily forged. EOBRs would automatically log data on how long trucks are driven, location, and more—making enforcement automatic.
- Insurance Levels for Motor Carriers: Currently, trucks are only required to carry minimum insurance levels of $750,000 and $5 million on motor coaches. These numbers have not been updated in more than 30 years and are insufficient for the cost of most accidents.
- Rear & Side Underride Safety Standards: Underride accidents are one of the deadliest types of truck accidents. To help prevent them, underride guards can be used; however, recent studies found them to be completely ineffective in many cases.
- Reducing Speed Limits: Studies have shown that when truckers are moving at 55 mph or faster, the likelihood of an accident—especially a jackknife or a rollover—significantly increases. Beyond that, the force of impact from a speeding truck can be twice as much between 65 and 55 mph.
Changes Coming to the Trucking Industry
The Department of Transportation has slowly added regulations to the trucking industry since 2012, changing Hours-of-Service and requiring a new electronic logbook system. The electronic logbook, which must be on qualifying freight trucks by Spring 2018, will prevent truckers from fraudulently recording their hours and cheating HOS regulations.
The Safety Administration believe that the electronic logbook will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries annually. Trucking companies believe that the extra costs will hurt the industry, which is a critical marker of economic growth. Since growth has slowed since 2012, this is a valid concern—though nowhere near as important as the lives of drivers.
Thankfully, while these safety measures may cost the trucking industry some profits upfront, the switch to electronic recordkeeping will save companies over a billion dollars in paperwork. Though we should not have to convince anyone of the benefits of safety measures, the fact is these measures would provide technological updates to an industry still relying on a paper-based filing system. In the long-term, there are no losers with increased safety.
If you'd like to learn more about these issues, we encourage you to call our truck accident lawyers now!