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Big changes in pre-trip inspection reporting for truckers

Written by Steve Gursten Posted December 29th, 2014

Truckers no longer have to file DVIRs with the trucking authorities unless a safety hazard is identified

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Recently, the United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox made a shocking announcement that will fundamentally shake up the commercial trucking industry:

Effective Dec. 18, 2014, professional truck and bus drivers will no longer have to submit Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) unless a safety hazard is detected during a pre-trip inspection.

In a published report, Fox said this will save the trucking industry an estimated $1.7 billion annually without compromising safety:

“America’s truckers should be able to focus more on getting their goods safely to store shelves, constructions sites or wherever they need to be instead of spending countless hours on unnecessary paperwork that costs the industry nearly $2 billion each year…This is a far better way to do business.”

But is this truly a better way to do business?

Commercial truck drivers are required to conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections
of their semi-trucks before embarking on their journeys. The purpose of these inspections is to identify safety hazards or maintenance concerns, and ultimately, prevent serious truck accidents. I’ve litigated hundreds of serious truck and bus accidents. The most serious truck wrecks often involve some kind of mechanical failure. And often the failure could have been entirely prevented with a thorough pre-trip inspection.

Therein lies the problem. Good truck drivers take their time and do thorough pre- and post-trip inspections. But unfortunately, there are many dangerous trucking companies that only care about their pocketbooks. They push their drivers to cut corners on safety and not to “waste time” doing pre-trip inspections properly — or  at all.

The final rule removes a filing requirement that mandated truckers file a report for roughly 95 percent of inspections; even when there were no safety concerns as to the mechanical condition of the big-rig.

But if truckers do not have to file their DVIRs anymore, does that not increase the temptation to just entirely skip the inspection and then later brush it off by saying there was no obvious defect?

Our attorneys certainly think so.  When truck drivers disregard safety, innocent people are killed or seriously injured. We’re afraid this will give those same dangerous truckers a “free pass” of sorts. A driver could ignore inspections entirely and just say they’re being done, but not filed, as there are “no issues.”

I certainly hope this doesn’t happen. But when you’ve seen the egregious rule violations I’ve seen in my career, such as the case that Michael Liezerman and I just settled for $34 million, it seems almost inevitable that a bad apple somewhere is going to take advantage of this new rule and seriously hurt somebody.

 

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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.