The regulations governing the trucking industry are under constant debate in the industry. In an effort to reduce tractor trailer crash deaths and injuries here in Missouri and across the country, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration makes these regulations, which are often fought by the trucking industry.
A few of these regulations in particular could see some changes in the coming months and years. The first is the weight limit for trucks on federal highways. Currently, the maximum allowable weight for a truck is 80,000 pounds, but advocates for the trucking industry want to push that number as high as 97,000 pounds. They argue that by increasing the weight limit, they can lower the number of trucks on the road which will lower the number of potential accidents and help the industry financially through the recession.
Opponents of the weight restriction increase argue that trucks are already incredibly dangerous at 80,000 pounds. Increasing the weight will only increase the damage done when something inevitably goes wrong. We have already discussed on the blog a St. Louis area tractor trailer crash on Highway 40 that saw a big rig plow through 10 cars. How many more cars, and how many more lives, could it have destroyed if it weighed an additional 17,000 pounds?
Another area of regulation that is up for debate is the Hours of Service regulations. These are put in place to limit the number of hours a driver can work, thus limiting the number of fatigued truckers with dangerously slow reaction times due to lack of sleep. Some argue the current laws are too lax and the number of consecutive hours a driver can work should be reduced further. Again, the trucking companies see this as delaying shipments and increasing costs, so they are largely against it.
The Comprehensive Safety Analysis initiative is a program from the FMCSA to reduce crashes and it also may lead to changes in the industry. One possible result of the initiative is stricter guidelines for hiring and retaining safe drivers. Some industry representatives support the initiative, but others worry about the financial repercussions of limiting the pool of drivers.
Any rule changes made by the FMCSA would ostensibly be made with the interest of safety at heart. Most of the objections from the industry have to do with financial concerns and they believe they can police themselves. From the point of view of a Missouri truck accident lawyer, I’m not sure what the perfect weight of a truck should be or the safest amount of hours a driver can work effectively. That’s for the FMCSA to decide. It is clear, though, that with 4,000 people dying every year in truck accidents, even with the current rules in place, the industry can’t police itself.