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How the transportation bill could prevent truck accidents

Written by Steve Gursten Posted September 7th, 2012

Preventable truck accidents occur  mainly because companies choose to cut safety corners to save money

Some of the worst truck accidents we’ve seen occur when truckers failed to inspect their trucks and overlooked simple mechanical issues.  Others occur because drivers were under the influence while driving, or were forced to drive past way over hours and became dangerously fatigued and impaired.

Consider the statistics:

  • More than 5,000 people are killed each year in truck accidents.
  • 1 out of every 5 trucks are “out of service,” meaning they are so mechanically unsafe that they have to be towed away immediately after being pulled over by law enforcement.
  • More than 100,000 truckers on U.S. roads are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

– (Source, CSA Roadcheck, American Trucking Association)

It seems as if the government is finally starting to acknowledge this catastrophic safety crisis: The Senate and House recently passed legislation that strengthens truck safety in the transportation bill, which is called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), H.R. 4348.

This is great news for drivers and truck accident attorneys, as the truck safety provisions in the transportation bill could start to regulate a good portion of this egregious behavior.

Below we’ve provided a brief summary of the truck safety provisions:

  • A mandate for a requirement of black boxes (also called electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs)) in all commercial vehicles;
  • A 2-year study on the safety and infrastructure effects of truck size and weight in place of increases to truck weight and size limits;
  • Provisions to address commercial truck driver safety: including medical qualifications, operator training, a driver’s license program, driver’s requirements and driver information systems;
  • Provisions to establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for commercial truck drivers;
  • Provisions to strengthen motor carrier oversight and enforcement, particularly to prevent reincarnated, chameleon carriers;
  • A provision to review and report on the appropriateness of minimum financial responsibility requirements (regarding insurance);
  • Provisions addressing the financial responsibility of freight forwarders and brokers by directing rule makings to establish minimum financial solvency and bonding requirements for these entities, and;
  • Provisions to increase penalties for Hazmat transportation violations, strengthen enforcement of Hazmat transportation and to develop criteria for oversight of Hazmat transportation.

The transportation bill will run through September 2014.

We believe this is a huge victory for truck safety and preventing truck crashes.

Truck Roundtable member Steve Gursten was President of the AAJ Truck Accident Lawyer Litigation Group during the Bush Administration, and often it seemed the government was willing to turn a blind eye to enforcing safety issues at the request of the transportation industry. While it seems the government is finally starting to address companies that are consistently violating safety laws, there is still so much that regulators fail to address.

Additionally, most state agencies don’t have the funds or the manpower to audit a truck driver’s safety logs, or even to see if the trucker is keeping two sets of logbooks (which sadly is becoming more and more common).  Finally, add in that many states are clearly not reporting all the tractor-trailer wrecks that occur, and the numbers of preventable trucking accidents becomes staggering.

The goal of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable is to discover each and every safety violation that led to a serious accident.  We want to change an industry that has become used to ignoring safety – sometimes egregiously – to disastrous consequences.  We know the only way to do this is one  truck accident at a time, and to hold each motor carrier fully accountable for every shortcut and every bad choice that they made.

Related information:

What you need to know about truck accident law

Trucking industry regulations: A self-regulated industry

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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