You load the kids into the car. They settle into a tired peace and quiet. You and your spouse strap in for the last leg of your trip, your goal being Kansas City, or Sioux City, Iowa, or Missoula, Montana. However, behind you a sleep-deprived trucker is tearing down the highway with 80,000 pounds in his trailer. He's not trying for Kansas, Iowa, or Montana, but the state(s) beyond, and even though he should've been in bed hours ago, he's not. Not even close. You're in danger but you don't know it. There are few rules that regulate him, and there's absolutely nothing you can do. You're at the mercy of a trucking industry. Welcome to the highways of America, 21st century. Enter at your own risk.
The most pervasive danger posed by truck drivers today is their fatigue. Fatigue is one of the leading causes of tractor-trailer accidents. Many of these result in the deaths of both motorist and driver. Imagine a lineup of vehicles stopped, waiting for construction on a 60 MPH highway, when a sleep-deprived truck driver barrels toward them at 65 MPH, dazed and unaware. He never applies the brakes, and the forces of physics take control of the outcome. And it gets worse.
Safety Measures At Odds With Trucking Lobbyists
Despite the problem of fatigue, the trucking industry is actively lobbying members of congress to loosen safety regulations in the following areas:
- Minimum hours of breaks required of drivers ¾ The current trucking work week is capped at 72 hours. The industry wants it to be stretched to 82.
- Maximum poundage each truck can carry ¾ Currently the maximum semi-trailer weight allowed on Interstate roadways is 80,000 lbs.
- Maximum length of a truck's double trailers, currently set at no more than 28 feet, though the industry wants 33 ...
- Minimum age of truck drivers lowered below 21 years old to as low as 18 ...
Efforts To Eliminate Electronic Log Book Requirements
The FMCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is doing something about the lenient trucking regulations, passing in late 2015 a mandate that by December 2017 all trucks must use electronic logbooks. The hope is that these logbooks will eliminate falsification of times and breaks currently used with paper logbooks.
However, the trucking industry is aggressively fighting this rule. The OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) has filed suit against FMCA over the looming logbook requirement. The suit is working its way through the courts. The lawsuit's mere existence is another raw indicator that many in the trucking industry are ignoring or disbelieving evidence that their brutal driving schedules are causing casualties on the road.
As you drive your family across America, understand the risks many truckers are taking each day. Risks that not only influence them but also you, and then act accordingly. In the event you are in an accident with a truck, make sure you understand your rights and options. Talk to an attorney who is experienced in handling trucking accident claims.