Congressional Bill Would Weaken Several Semitruck Safety Laws

Truck accidents claim the lives of several thousands of motorists each year and leave many more with serious injuries that can be life-changing. Because of the threat that large trucks pose to other motorists on the road, Congress and federal regulatory agencies have implemented many safety measures over the years to keep the public safe from this threat. However, many of these safety measures may soon be for naught, as Congress is considering passing a transportation bill that would roll back many safety measures. Even more puzzling, Congress is considering doing this at a time that the number of fatal truck accidents has increased every year for the past six years.

Bigger trucks

One of the most controversial aspects of the transportation bill is a provision that would raise the maximum allowable size and weight of large trucks. If passed, the bill would raise the maximum allowable weight of a semi-truck from 80,000 pounds to 91,000. Additionally, the bill would significantly lengthen the maximum length allowable for double semis (trucks that haul two trailers at once) from 28 to 33 feet each.

Taken together, these two changes would likely have a significant detrimental effect on safety. Since trucks would be longer and heavier, they would take significantly longer to stop and be more difficult to maneuver and control. Also, when the larger truck collides with a car, it would be more likely to be fatal for those in the smaller vehicle.

Longer trucker hours

One of the leading causes of truck accidents is driver fatigue. To ensure that truck drivers are adequately rested and alert, the law limits their workweek to 70 hours. Once they have reached the 70-hour maximum, the law requires them to rest for at least 34 hours.

However, if passed, the proposed bill would increase drivers' workweeks to 82 hours and significantly shorten their rest breaks. As a result, the number of truck accidents caused by drowsy drivers would likely increase.

Teens behind the wheel

According to the trucking industry, there is currently a shortage of drivers. To fill this need, the bill would lower the minimum age for truck drivers from 21 to 18. According to safety experts, this is troubling, given that teenage drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in a collision than those above the age of 20.

Specifically, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that for each mile driven, drivers under 20 years of age are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than older drivers. Since this data includes statistics taken primarily from teens operating passenger vehicles, this figure would likely be higher if this provision became law. The reason for this is that large heavy trucks are much more difficult to operate safely and are more likely to be fatal if involved in a collision than passenger vehicles.

If in a collision, get legal help

Currently, a fully loaded semi-truck outweighs a passenger vehicle by more than 30 times. Because of this, it is innocent motorists, not the truck drivers, which will be in the most danger of fatalities and very serious injuries if this bill becomes law.

If you or a loved one have been injured (or killed) in a truck accident, it is vital to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney right away. In many cases, the accident is the result of negligence on the part of the driver or trucking company. After a full investigation into the cause of the accident has been completed, an attorney can help you recover the compensation that you are due under the law.