In 2006, the American Trucking Association and Roadsafe America petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish a rule regarding the use of speed-limiters on heavy trucks. In May of last year, the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed on a joint rule and submitted it to the White House Office of Management and Budget. The OMB delayed the issue by extending the review period for the rule. Last week, the rule was delayed again. The OMB also delayed the release of a regulation that would have created a database to track all truck drivers who failed or refused to take drug or alcohol tests.
Roadside inspections are conducted to ensure that commercial trucks and truck drivers are complying with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Hazardous Materials Regulations. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, roadside inspectors are facing undue burdens in performing their duties. The CVSA wrote a letter to the FMCSA about concerns that the number of exemptions handed out to drivers and trucking companies is complicating the roadside inspection process.
The design of a tractor trailer is the result of many things. Federal regulations require certain safety equipment. Fuel efficiency and driver comfort play a role in the design of truck cabs. The basic structure, however, is the result of a standardization method known as containerization.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced a plan to evaluate forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) technology. Depending on the result of that evaluation, the NHTSA may move to require FCAM devices on commercial trucks. The Truck Safety Coalition, Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Road Safe America joined together to petition the NHTSA for such a rule last February. The Department of Transportation granted the petition this week.
A measure that passed unanimously in the Illinois House and Senate was vetoed by Governor Quinn this week. The law would have raised the speed limit for trucks traveling on interstates in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties from 55 miles per hour to 60. The law was positioned as a return to the same speed differential that existed prior to the State raising interstate speed limits for cars on these roads to 70 from 65. Governor Quinn defended the veto on the grounds that higher speed limits have been linked to an increase in fatal traffic accidents in numerous studies.
Following a serious truck accident, victims and their families often must turn to the truck company's insurance provider to obtain proper compensation. The minimum insurance policy a truck company can hold under the law is $750,000. This level was set in 1985, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Due to rising medical costs and inflation, $750,000 may be inadequate to cover the victims of a catastrophic crash.
Individual states have taken steps to legalize medical and even recreational use of marijuana in recent years. While the states have the right to make these decisions, commercial drivers, pilots and operators are still bound by federal regulations concerning safe operation of buses, trains, planes and trucks. Truck drivers are still in violation of these rules if they have any marijuana in their systems while operating their vehicles. This is an important consideration for the victims of truck accidents as state laws establishing safe limits for THC in the blood could be used to deny liability. Regardless of the state where the accident occurs, if the driver has THC levels higher than zero, he or she is in violation of Department of Transportation guidelines for commercial drivers.
New regulations were proposed last May concerning the installation of anti-rollover systems in buses and heavy duty trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that rollover accidents cause roughly 700 traffic deaths per year. NHTSA researchers estimated that electronic stability control systems would prevent thousands of crashes and between 49 and 60 fatalities every year. The regulations called for the installation of these devices with two to four years. Truck makers are now pushing back and requesting that the requirements for meeting the new standard be scaled back.
Highway-rail grade crossings are intersections where roads cross railroad tracks on the same level or grade. These intersections are the site of more than 3,000 accidents every year, including roughly 700 semi truck accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created a new initiative designed to help truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators avoid these terrible accidents. If every commercial driver followed the precautions laid out by the FMCSA, there would be far fewer accidents and fewer fatalities at highway-rail grade crossings.
The competition for a driver's attention used to be between driving, the radio and other passengers. That competition now includes cell phones, GPS devices, iPods and other personal electronic devices. The increase in serious car and truck accidents caused by distracted driving has caused the National Transportation Safety Board to hold a forum designed to cover the issue. "Attentive Driving: Countermeasures for Distraction" is scheduled for March 27 and will cover a wide range of issues connected to driver inattention.