New Safety Rules for Truck Drivers

Truck accident attorney

Ehline Crew

Coming off the heels of California considering suits against the federal government for violations of state’s rights, the feds have now come up with a list of even more trucking regulations. And these are certain to raise the already high prices of goods and services in the Golden State. California already has a very strict state scheme for regulation of interstate commerce. And most of our readers are aware of the big rig collisions taking place all over the port areas such as Long Beach and San Diego.

The feds are now adding to the crushing list of safety regulations, and many appear to be redundant to California regs. The facts related that the federal government has arbitrarily decided that truck drivers need more rest than they are getting. So the Department of Transportation and its sister agencies have enacted new rules that will ensure these operators take longer breaks and cut down their amount of hours behind the wheel. These are all noble causes. But…..

Truckers Will Now Be Forced to Take a 30 Minute Break Within First 8 Hours of Trip – Cutting Work Week to 70 From 80 Hours

As part of a new government plan to make highways safer, the schedule for truck drivers will now require them to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours they drive. This would cut an average of 82-hour workweek to 70 hours per week. So they will be required to take a 34-hour break once a week.

According to the administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Anne Ferro, the change in the rules for tractor-trailer drivers will increase safety on US highways and roadways. The idea is reducing driver fatigue. Ferro said driver fatigue is the leading factor in large truck mishaps.

A Safety Rating System in Place to Put Shippers on Notice

The new regulations will include safety rating system that shippers will be a review when choosing a new carrier. This will prompt trucking industry to improve the safety of its equipment and its drivers.

Industry Already On Fumes Suing Obama Admin

As discussed in our other articles, truckers are struggling with high fuel costs, and a fizzling economy already. So much so, that trucker is using the trailer brakes on rigs, to avoid using the cab brakes, to offset repair costs. (Read more on lawyers.com). They are even using dangerous, carved retreads more and more.

They do so to save money, as well as avoiding other expenses necessary to a safe trip. So the industry is a conundrum. New rules create more government employees and take money out of the market. There are already laws in place that are sufficient, at least in California. This is according to people who want a return to the Constitutional Republic, such as this author.

Battling against these new rules, the trucking industry has filed a lawsuit to have the rules reversed, and has stated this will cause more highway traffic, as well as higher shipping costs to consumers. They have also argued that without these new regulations, they have already done their share to reduce accidents.

Big rig operators on the road full-time have stated that they run safe and are compliant with current regulations. According to the analysis of the FMCSA data shows that there are approximately 4000 fatal crashes annually. Their estimates for these new rules claim that they will be able to prevent 1400 mishaps, 560 injuries and save 19 lives every year.

FMCSA spokeswoman Marissa Padilla stated that the analysis showed that the new rules all prevent crashes injuries and save lives. Padilla said that they’re aware that distracting TV’s play a significant role in trucking mishaps, and will still be a factor. These new rules according to into the Department of Transportation analysis, show that there can be an economic benefit that these rules in place.

The DOT’s data shows that during the year 2009 there was a cost of $20 billion in medical and insurance costs. And this is along with infrastructure damage that involved big rigs and carrier buses. This figure also included loss of wages and productivity for the individuals involved. The reduction of driver mortality analysis estimated $470 million in benefits.

According to the American Trucking Associations head of policy and regulatory affairs, Dave Osiecki said that the trucking industry disputes these figures and is unconvinced of their analysis. He said after reviewing their documents several times that they have good reason to question the validity of the claims.

A Personal Injury Lawyer’s Perspective

As personal injury attorneys, we understand that common sense takes place over any regulation when it comes to a reasonable duty exercised. This means that in California, Ehline Law views a regulation as a floor and not a ceiling as far as standard of care is concerned. So if there is a reg that says drive 55, but the safe speed was 45 for the conditions (rain, the wind, sleet, snow, etc. ), we would argue that is was unreasonable to drive so fast. And that would have avoided the injury or damage to property, etc.

So although more and more regulations do allow a negligence victim to argue a legal theory called “Negligence Per Se” (Defined Here). Also, they often create an environment that will lead to more injuries. This happens as the starving shippers find other ways to cut expenses.

They do so to put food on the table for their families. So we respectfully submit that creating more tax funded govt employees and cracking the whip on small businesses and regular folks is not the solution.

But rather, common sense, freedom and fewer regulations will lead to more innovation and safety. After all, tort lawyers can sue an unreasonable trucker based upon ordinary negligence already. A reasonable trucking company who wants to avoid lawsuits will behave reasonably.

Sources:

FMCSA Regulations (Source Official Website)

FMCSA Press Release:

Article by CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100852239

Editorial by Illinois attorney, Jon Rosenfeld on trucking regs:

NPR discusses how new rules hurt deadlines: http://www.npr.org/2013/06/30/197319059/new-law-puts-brakes-on-truck-drivers-schedules