New law would allow inspectors to remove dangerous trucks from operation

A proposal would ease the ability of inspectors to remove dangerous commercial vehicles from operating on the nation's roadways.

A new proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aims to increase the safety of the nation’s roadways by making it easier for inspectors to remove dangerous commercial trucks from operation. The proposal would update the current system and, according to the agency, greatly increase the number of inspections that are completed. Current estimates project that approximate 15,000 motor carriers are inspected annually. Projections using the current proposal would increase this number to 75,000 per month.

Trucking accident statistics

Those behind the proposal state that increasing oversight of these motor carriers is beneficial to those who use the nation’s roadways as trucking accidents are an issue throughout the country. Thousands of people using these roads die in tractor trailer accidents every year. The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there were 3,921 traffic deaths connected to crashes involving large trucks in 2012. Of these, 18 percent, or 697 people, were the occupants of large trucks and 73 percent, or 2,843 people, were occupants in other vehicles. An additional 10 percent, translating to 381 people, were nonoccupants. Examples of nonoccupants include pedestrians and bicyclists.

Current inspection process

The current inspection process operates on a three tiered rating system. Trucks are given a rating of satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory based on their compliance with federal regulations. In order to receive a satisfactory rating, the motor carrier must meet a number of requirements. This is done by having the motor carrier establish that it has controls in place to reduce the risk of violations involving the driver’s commercial driver’s license and other unqualified driver violations, improper use and driving of the vehicles, improper maintenance of vehicles and a failure to properly maintain paperwork such as accident registers and reports.

Proposed change

Instead of using a three-tiered system, the new system would simply focus on whether or not the carrier is fit to operate. The determination would be based on the carrier’s performance based on the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), the inspection, or a combination of the two. BASICs are completed using data from the roadside inspection as well as state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier consensus. This information is then used to determine whether violations for issues involving unsafe driving, hours-of-service compliance, driver fitness, controlled substance use, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials or motor vehicle accidents.

Lessons for victims

This proposal shows that law makers recognize the dangers unsafe commercial trucks can pose. It also highlights the evolving nature of personal injury law. As a result, those who are injured in trucking accidents are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced semitruck accident attorney. This legal professional can build a case that is tailored to the details of your accident, advocating for a more favorable outcome.