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As Fatal Truck Accidents Rise, Congress Considers Relaxing Trucking Rules

A bill before the U.S. House of Representatives could allow for increases in driver workloads, which could lead to more fatal truck accidents involving 18 wheelers. The bill would remove many of the restrictions on the number of hours per week a driver can operate a tractor-trailer. The proposal would also allow drivers to carry double trailers, known as “Twin 33s”, in every state. State agencies and highway safety advocates say that the changes could contribute to more fatal truck accidents on the nation’s highways.

New Proposal Could Increase Fatal Truck Accidents

The trucking proposal was attached to a $55 billion bill that would serve to finance the operations for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for the 2016 fiscal year. The proposal was attached to the appropriations bill without a committee hearing. Such a hearing would possibly have revealed the connections between drivers working longer hours and an increase in fatal truck accidents. Due to the nature of how the proposal was attached to the appropriations bill, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure.

Groups Concerned About Fatal Truck Accidents

Several diverse groups have spoken out against the proposed legislation, fearing it would lead to more fatal truck accidents. Spokespeople for police departments around the country have expressed concerns that drivers going for longer hours and driving heavier rigs will cause a spike in fatal truck accidents. Safety groups have pointed out reports showing that more than 90 percent of the victims in fatal truck accidents are the drivers and riders in passenger cars. Auto safety advocate Joan Claybrook told reporters that “families will be paying with their lives” if the bill passes.

Fatal Truck Accidents Already Increasing

The number of fatal truck accidents has been on the rise for several years. A recent report showed that over 4,000 fatal truck accidents occurred across the country last year. Over the previous four years, fatal truck accidents have increased by 17 percent. Recent regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have limited drivers to 70 hours per week and established mandatory rest breaks. The new bill would increase the maximum work week to 82 hours and cut back on the rest breaks.

Drowsy Driving Leads to Fatal Truck Accidents

The major concern expressed by highway safety groups is that the increase in work hours could contribute to drivers pushing through their physical exhaustion and causing a fatal truck accident. A 2006 survey of truck drivers found that at least half of the respondents had fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in the previous year. The FMCSA rules were put in place to prevent drowsy driving, but the agency has yet to gather sufficient data on the rules’ effects on the number of fatal truck accidents.

Source: Baltimore Sun

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