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Will the MAP-21 provision mean new safety changes on the horizon?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 21st, 2013

FMCSA pursues several new safety initiatives under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), regarding drug screening, chameleon carriers and the health of truckers

In July 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was signed into law by President Obama.  We have discussed the expansion of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulatory power before at the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable.  For example, under the Act, the FMCSA has the power to immediately suspend carriers for refusing to cooperate with an FMCSA investigation, as it did for the unsafe bus company Fung Wah.

However, MAP-21 goes much further.

There are some great new initiatives that the FMCSA is pursuing under the Act. They include:

Drug and alcohol clearinghouse – The FMCSA is developing a new set of rules that would mandate commercial motor vehicle carriers to report their truck drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol to a centralized clearinghouse. The rules (as currently envisioned) would also require the carrier to report those truckers who refused to submit for testing.

Currently, no such clearinghouse exists, though there is currently a pre-employment screening program supported by the FMCSA which is a similar concept to the clearinghouse.

Electronic onboard recorders – The agency is developing guidelines to regulate the use of electronic onboard records (EOBRs), which monitor and record hours-of-service compliance. This is particularly desirable because far too often, bad truck drivers and trucking companies who value profit more than safety break the hours of service rules.

Violating the hours-of-service rules is extremely dangerous. And often when these violations occur, so do crashes. Here’s a recent blog post on a fatal truck accident that occurred after the driver violated the 14-hour rule. As an aside, a very high number of our own cases that we litigate as attorneys involve truck accidents with violations of hours of service.  Clearly there is a direct causal connection between violations of hours of service, fatigue, poor driving judgment, and truck accidents.

Reincarnating carriers (“chameleon carriers”) – In what is arguably the best new initiative to come out of the MAP-21 legislation, the FMCSA has begun implementing procedures to make it harder for bad truck companies to reorganize as “chameleon” operations. Chameleon carriers are unsafe companies who simply reorganize as an entirely new operation to skirt the penalties or increased insurance premiums attached to the “old” dangerous carrier.  The FMCSA would require all new carriers to satisfy a written safety examination.  This is a great start in combating chameleon carriers.

But what remains to be seen is whether this will be enough to successfully combat these bad truck companies.  It is one thing for a company to know what it is supposed to do to operate safely and pass a test, but being safe in practice is a whole different story. As our truck attorneys have said before; all the regulation in the world will not stop bad truck drivers or bad trucking companies from breaking the rules or cutting corners on safety.

Medical examiner registry – Beginning in in May 2014, the FMCSA will require commercial vehicle carriers to utilize medical examiners listed in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners to complete medical examinations of truck drivers. This measure is designed to ensure the highest level of integrity and scrutiny in the truck driver screening process.

MAP-21 is a powerful tool in the FMCSA war on dangerous truck drivers and dangerous trucking companies.  As a successful truck attorney, and having seen people who have been terribly injured in wrecks, it’s very encouraging to see these kinds of safety measures being pursued.

Here’s more information on MAP-21.

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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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