LOBBYING EFFORTS BY THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY DEFY LOGIC

18 Wheeler Tire BlowoutsAny parent can tell you – when their 18-year-olds get behind the wheel of the family car, they worry.  It’s not a matter of trust.  When you’re 18 years old, hormones rule your life, you feel invincible – and immortal.  Accidents can’t happen to you – until of course they do.

At 18, a young person has at the most perhaps two years of limited driving know-how. Many don’t start driving until they are 17. Bluntly, that is not nearly enough time to have experienced all the sudden twists, turns and dangers the roadways can and will throw a person’s way.

However, a recent lobbying effort by trucker’s associations and other similar groups will turn this inexperience on its head.

Winding through Congress are proposed measures allowing teens as young as 18 to drive commercial trucks across state lines. Currently, that age limit is 21.

Face the facts – according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 have nearly double the number of fatal crashes than any other age group.  Now place an 18-wheeler big rig under the command of an 18-year-old, and you are just begging for accidents to happen.

It gets worse…

Not only do these trucking proponents want to lower the minimum licensed trucking age to 18, but they also want to gut some extremely important safeguards as well.

SLEEP

We all need it. In fact, go without sleep for as little as two days, and the average person will actually begin to hallucinate during their waking hours.  Truckers now enjoy a provision allowing them 34 hours off after a total run of 70 hours driving within an eight-day period, as well as two nighttime breaks for sleep periods between 1:00 A.M. and 5:00 A.M.

Considering big rigs and large trucks are involved in nearly 11 fatal crashes each and every day of the year throughout the United States, and that at least 13% of these crashes are due to commercial driver fatigue – the trucking industry should be clamoring for more rest time, not less.

However, according to Bill Graves, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, these time off and sleep regulations can be counterproductive.  He states in a June 10, 2014, article in USA Today that:

“In the past year, these changes have put more trucks on the road during morning rush hour, a riskier proposition than overnight driving…” “The changes reduced productivity. And they disrupted many truck drivers’ chosen sleep and duty schedules, leading some to leave trucking.”

Mr. Graves supports “a one-year suspension of these restart restrictions while the unintended consequences are studied.  That’s how good public policy gets made.”

To his credit, Mr. Graves does support rules requiring trucks to have electronic logs and having their speed electronically limited – both proven methods of reducing accidents.

To be sure, a trucker’s life isn’t easy.  Many times being on the road and away from home and family for weeks at a time. Higher than average divorce rates. Traffic, shipper delays, mechanical downtime… all put pressure on both the drivers and their paychecks.

However, the truly sad part is that many of those killed in trucking accidents are innocent victims – auto drivers and pedestrians whose lives were snuffed out by up to 40 tons of diesel fueled steel.

EXHAUSTION KILLS

The place: Sherman, Texas. The date: September 20, 2004.

Betsy Wood, Lisa Wood-Martin, along with Lisa’s three young children were on their way home – a destination they never reached.  A trucker fell asleep while driving, crossed the median into oncoming traffic colliding with their SUV and a second vehicle. After the impact, Lisa’s SUV burst into flames, roasting the victims alive.  First responders said there was nothing they could do.

In all, ten people were killed and two more injured in a single crash.  Dozens upon dozens more had their lives turned upside down and devastated as their family members never made it back that day.

More recently, on June 7th, 2014 the New Jersey Turnpike saw an accident caused by a Wal-Mart truck operated by Kevin Roper. Comedians Tracy Morgan and Ardley Fuqua were victims. Tracy was critically injured, while Ardley was killed.  Others traveling with them also suffered considerable injuries or died.

It came about since the truck driver was simply exhausted, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his Peterbilt truck-tractor and semitrailer combination into the unfortunate Mercedes limousine carrying the comic troupe.

LONGER, HEAVIER RIGS

Notwithstanding, trucking proponents now want to override 39 state laws which currently limit double trailers to no more than 28 feet apiece, by allowing the maximum length to rise by five additional feet – for a total of 33 feet each.

So what could possibly go wrong?

Younger, inexperienced drivers
Less sleep time
Larger, heavier rigs

The trucking industry says this will actually improve safety for all.  More level-headed, even-minded observers tend to disagree.

TERRY BRYANT LAW FIRM

Terry Bryant Law Firm in Houston has been helping Texas residents for over 30 years with their legal problems and concerns, ensuring their clients get the very best advice, assistance and compensation to which they are entitled.

If you or your family members have been injured in a truck accident, including trucking and big rig encounters, our attorneys can help evaluate your situation and advise you as to your best course of action.