Trucking Statistics and New Laws to Improve Safety

Texas is criss-crossed by numerous major highways, with commercial trucks and 18-wheelers frequently traveling great distances through the state. Unfortunately, the statistics for an 18-wheeler accident is grim; over 98% results in at least one fatality. Not enough emphasis can be placed on ensuring road safety when it comes to operating big rigs because it is so often catastrophic for the other party. This is why there are so many rules governing commercial motor vehicles and why the penalties for non-compliance so stiff.

It has become even more rigorous as a new law comes into effect to further reduce the incidence of big rig accidents on US highways. The Moving Ahead for Progress for the 21st Century or MAP-21 was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. MAP-21 seeks to bolster the teeth of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in enforcing safety rules and regulations. Under MAP-21, several carriers have been given cease and desist orders for failing to comply with the FMCSA regulations. This has made the message to other carriers loud and clear that the government is determined to reduce the number of unfit CMVs and incompetent CMV drivers operating on American highways.

MAP-21 supports the FMCSA strategic framework for improving CMV safety through the following core principles:

  • Raise the thresholds for entry into the CMV industry
  • Require CMV carriers and drivers to comply with safety standards or cease operations
  • Weed out carriers whose CMVs fail to meet safety standards, and CMV drivers who are incompetent and unfit to travel on US roads

MAP-21 went into effect on October 1, 2012, and provides more funds for the FMCSA to implement its Highway Safety Improvement Program which focuses on infrastructure safety and safety programs to reduce 18-wheeler accident and highway fatality statistics.

The aggressive campaign to prevent highway accidents is laudable, but there are always those who slip through the cracks. If you suffered injuries in an 18-wheeler accident and you believe it was due to negligence, it is your duty to file a suit against the driver and carrier to discourage such behavior. An experienced truck accident lawyer can be an invaluable ally if you decide to take legal action. Taking legal action may also make the FMCSA stand up and notice, and properly sanction the parties responsible.

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Truck Accident Prevention and Hours of Service Regulations

Hours of Service (HOS) federal regulations that cover commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are designed to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents. A CMV is generally used for interstate commerce and satisfies any of the following:

  • More than 10,001 pounds
  • Weight rating of 10,001 or more
  • Transports 16 or more people without compensation
  • Transports 9 or more people with compensation
  • Transports hazardous materials in quantities requiring the use of placards

The newest version of HOS regulations was published on December 27, 2011 and was effective two months later on February 27, 2012. Full compliance is mandatory by July 1, 2013. The American Trucking Association has petitioned for a review of these rules before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The new rules include rules for the 34-hour restart, where drivers could clock in 70 hours per week after a 34-hour stretch off-duty. Two rest breaks of 30 minutes each are also mandated for night-driving (based on home terminal time) between 1 and 5 in the morning.

There are two categories for drivers under HOS regulations: property-carrying and passenger-carrying.

Property-carrying CMV

  • Maximum of 11 hours driving after 10 hours off-duty
  • Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming off duty
  • Maximum of 60 hours on duty in a 7-day period or 70 hours over 8 days
  • Sleeper berth equipped trucks: minimum of 8 hours in the berth within the 10-hour mandatory off duty

Passenger-carrying CMV

  • Maximum of 10 hours driving after 8 hours off-duty
  • Drivers may not drive beyond the 15th hour after coming off duty
  • Maximum of 60 hours on duty in a 7-day period or 70 hours over 8 days
  • Sleeper berth equipped trucks: may split the mandatory 8 hour off duty into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours

Civil penalties apply for CMV drivers who violate the prescribed time limits, or who fail to follow mandatory break periods. If it can be proven that a fatigue-related truck accident resulting in an injury occurred due to a violation of the HOS, the injured party may be eligible to file for compensation from the party responsible for their losses, whether that is the truck driver himself / herself, or the company that employs the driver.

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