In spite of recent increases in truck accidents due to fatigue, the United States Congress has been pressured to loosen the regulations on trucking companies, which would exacerbate this problem even further.
About Trucking Accidents
Trucking accidents kill thousands of people in the United States every year. In 2013 alone, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that there were more than 3,500 trucking accidents with nearly 4,000 fatalities. These numbers have increased by more than 17 percent since 2009.
Pressure on Congress
In order to boost their bottom line, trucking companies continue to pressure Congress for lighter regulations. Some of the requests made include:
- Longer trailers – The current length limit for trucks with double trailers is 28 feet per trailer. However, trucking companies are lobbying to have the limit raised to 33 feet per trailer.
- Heavier loads – Currently, trucks cannot carry more than 80,000 lbs in a single load. Heavier loads would allow truckers to deliver more goods at once, so they have lobbied to have this limit raised.
- Longer work weeks – The current weekly work hour limit for truckers is 70, which is considerably higher than the standard full-time workweek of 40 hours. However, trucking companies have been lobbying to increase this limit to 82 hours per week.
- Younger drivers – Under the existing law, individuals cannot qualify for the license required to drive a commercial truck until they reach at least 21 years of age. Trucking companies would like to see this limit lowered to 18 years old.
- Concealment of motor carrier safety ratings – Motor carrier safety ratings indicate which trucking companies have a history of unsafe behavior. Lobbyists would like to have these records concealed.
- Fewer insurance requirements – Fewer insurance requirements would allow trucking companies to save money and make a higher profit, but it would also reduce the payout for people injured because of these companies’ activities.
If Congress caves to the pressure of lobbyists, these new rules will apply in all states, including Pennsylvania. According to recent polls, the public is not generally in favor of changing these laws. In fact, when asked if they approved of raising the weight limit for trucks to 90,000 lbs or more, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said “no.” Likewise, more than 60 percent of people also disapproved of lowering the age limit for truckers to 18, increasing maximum trailer lengths and raising the weekly work hour limit for truck drivers.
In spite of the resistance from the public, Congress may still loosen trucking regulations to satisfy lobbyists. If this occurs, all of the highways in the United States are likely to see more trucking accidents, injuries and fatalities. In the state of Pennsylvania, drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-78, I-80 and other major highways are likely to notice the most change. However, trucking accidents will not be restricted to these larger roads and can occur anywhere truckers are permitted to travel.
To prevent injuries related to a trucking accident, motorists should be careful when sharing the road with these large vehicles. Motorists who notice truckers driving unsafely should also report their observations to the proper authorities. Even with the highest level of vigilance and caution, however, accidents may still occur.
People who are injured because of a truck driver’s negligence or disregard for traffic laws may have legal recourse. To learn more about your options for recovering compensation, contact a qualified legal representative.