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Administration leaves proposed trucking safety rules dead on roadside

Written by Steve Gursten Posted April 14th, 2017

Caving to push back from trucking industry, the President, FMCSA and U.S. DOT Secretary withdraw proposed revisions to ‘Carrier Safety Fitness Determination’

trucking safety rules

Putting the brakes on federal trucking safety rules and protections when truck accident rates — and fatalities — are increasing is a deadly idea.

So why are President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao doing this?

Sadly, the best explanation is they’ve chosen to side with the big commercial vehicle special interests that are the force behind the American Trucking Association. In so doing, they’ve chosen putting trucking industry profits over increasing the safety of everyone on our roads.

On March 23, 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) withdrew its Jan. 21, 2016, proposal to revise the “methodology for issuance of a safety fitness determination (SFD) for motor carriers,” according to the Federal Register.

Specifically, the proposed “Carrier Safety Fitness Determination” would have:

“[D]etermined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.”

This is at the same time that there has been sharp increase in truck injury crashes and truck accident fatalities.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2015,” FMCSA Analysis Division (November 2016), pages 17 and 23:

  • “Fatal crashes involving large trucks” increased from 3,429 in 2014 to 3,598 in 2015.
  • “Total fatalities in large truck crashes” increased from 3,908 in 2014 to 4,067 in 2015.
  • “Injury crashes involving large trucks” increased from 69,000 in 2013 to 82,000 in 2014 to 83,000 in 2015.
  • “Persons injured in large truck crashes” increased from 95,000 in 2013 to 111,000 in 2014 to 116,000 in 2015.

As truck accident attorneys and advocates for trucking safety rules, we have been hopeful that efforts undertaken during the Obama administration of making our roads safer and preventing truck accident fatalities and injuries would be implemented. Unfortunately, those efforts now look to be rolled back.

While this may be a big victory for the trucking industry, it’s a staggering defeat for trucking safety and for all the innocent drivers whose lives and health are put at risk.

How the FMCSA wanted to improve trucking safety rules, motor carrier safety and fitness

The FMCSA wanted to improve trucking safety rules and prevent truck accidents by revising its “Carrier Safety Fitness Determination” process to include:

“[D]etermining safety fitness from not only a comprehensive compliance investigation, but also considering roadside inspections data. Adding roadside inspections to the proposal included a minimum number of inspections and violations to be used for the SFD, as well as providing failure standards, and elimination of the current three-tier rating system (i.e., satisfactory—conditional—unsatisfactory). Also, the NPRM proposed revising the SFD appeals process and establishing implementation and transition provisions for a final rule.”

Profits-over-trucking-safety-rules push back

The Federal Register details how withdrawal of the proposed “safety fitness determination” rule came after a great deal of push back from corporate and motor-carrier interests:

  • “The Agency received 153 initial comment period submissions and 17 reply comment period submissions in response to the NPRM. After considering the comments, FMCSA announced that, rather than move to a final rule, a SNPRM would be the next step in the rulemaking process.”
  • “On February 15, 2017, a letter from 62 national and regional organizations of motor carriers urged Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao to withdraw the NPRM …”
  • “Based on the current record, including comments received in response to the [proposed revision of the “Carrier Safety Fitness Determination” rule] and the February 2017 correspondence to Secretary Chao, FMCSA has decided to withdraw the January 2016 [proposal] and, accordingly, cancels the plans to develop a [supplemental proposal] as announced by the Agency on January 12, 2017. If FMCSA determines changes to the safety fitness determination process are still necessary and advisable in the future, a new rulemaking would be initiated that will incorporate any appropriate recommendations from the National Academies of Science and the comments received through this rulemaking. The NPRM concerning motor carrier safety fitness determinations is withdrawn.”
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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.