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Misguided FMSCA proposal will cause more trucking crashes by fatigued truckers

Written by Steve Gursten Posted September 27th, 2012

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced some proposed  changes to its CSA program.  CSA, which stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability, is an FMCSA safety push to reduce bus and truck accidents.  The proposed changes include one in particular that is especially infuriating to the Truck Accident  Roundtable lawyers: It reads as follows:

Changing the name of the Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service (HOS)) BASIC to the HOS Compliance BASICThis Fatigued Driving BASIC continues to have a strong association with future crash risk. This action is being taken to reflect that the BASIC includes hours of service record keeping requirements that do not necessarily indicate fatigued driving or driving in excess of allowable hours.

Here’s the full text of the proposal.

This is a cop-out by the FMCSA.  It is a cave-in to political pressure.  It has nothing to do with safety or with preventing trucking accidents.  Actually, quite the opposite.

The trucking industry doesn’t like the negative word choice of “fatigued driving” and complains, and so the FMCSA is running away from the word.  But it’s a good word.  It accurately describes the issue.

What’s more is that the FMCSA says their science is accurate, and is responsible for a 5% drop in truck crash fatalities in the past year.

If this has indeed saved hundreds of lives, then why deliberately weaken the wording from fatigued driving to HOS compliance?

Because words have meaning.  So why not make the word choice stronger, not weaker?  Why not call the entire CSA BASIC categories “Violations Known to Cause Truck Accidents that Kill and Injure Innocent Drivers on the Road?”

This is, after all, the whole point of the federal safety regulations and it is why the FMCSA states they needed the BASIC data in the first place.

This is a cop-out to the trucking industry.  The FMCSA should keep it as “fatigued driving.” This is a huge known killer – a factor in about 1/3 of all the trucking accidents in America today.

Why downplay it when it has been proven to save lives?

Statistics tell us that known violators are more likely to be involved in causing trucking accidents than commercial carriers with good safety records.

Why the trucking industry can veto safety

The trucking industry in America has litigated and or protested everything that can reduce truck wrecks.  This includes the type of alert, the warning on the basic screen, any increase in liability insurance limits for 30 years.

It has also successfully lobbied to have the MCS-150A stricken because it was valuable in showing how many trucking carriers were CHOOSING to ignore important safety regulations that the MCS-150A form was making abundantly clear in one single document. So the trucking industry put pressure on the FMCSA and through its politicians and now that too is gone.

The game is stacked in favor of the industry and against safety efforts that will save thousands of lives in preventable trucking accidents.  The insurers and commercial motor carriers can ask their defense lawyers, who are paid by the hour, to create an industry “issue” for negative change.

Steve Gursten, one of the founders of the Roundtable, was President of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Group during the Bush Administration.  He says he remembers what it was like when there was a truly motivated administrator who resisted safety efforts during those years.

We hope this is a terrible aberration.  But our heads tell us this is the end result of money and politics trumping proven safety measures that would save thousands of lives.

Related information:

Who has to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations?

Understanding the laws of the regulated trucking 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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