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FMSCA rule would require all truck passengers to buckle up

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 29th, 2016

Proposed law could help prevent injuries to passengers in commercial motor vehicles

The number of passengers riding in trucks who are being seriously injured and killed in crashes is higher than you might think. About 275 passengers of large trucks who were killed in crashes in 2013 were not wearing their safety belts, according to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is now hoping to change that. The FMSCA is currently seeking public comment on a notice of proposed rulemaking requiring passengers riding in property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to use safety belts.

Holding truckers accountable for injuries to passengers

As attorneys who focus our legal practice on trucking accidents, a large percentage of our clients involve truck drivers who are injured by passenger vehicles. And over the years, we’ve also been representing a number of passengers in trucks who are injured in accidents that are caused by other motorists or by the truck driver. There’s also a workers comp component if both the driver and passenger are working for the same company at the time of a crash.

Federal rules have long required all commercial drivers to use safety belts. This proposed rule would hold both trucking companies and commercial truck drivers responsible for ensuring that any passengers riding in the truck cab are also buckled up.

Federal regulations and most state laws require drivers to wear safety belts. They also require trucks and truck tractors manufactured on or after January 1, 1965, to be equipped with a safety belt assembly, meeting requirements specified in Federal regulations.

Motor carriers must enforce seat belt policies and requirements

In the U.S., motor vehicle crashes of all types are the leading cause of lost work time and on-the-job fatalities. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2004 transportation incidents were the number one cause of on-the-job deaths with 2,460 fatalities out of a total of 5,703 fatal occupational injuries recorded. That same year, 634 commercial truck drivers were killed in crashes. And a total of 761 occupants of large trucks died in crashes.

Failing to wear a seat belt in the trucking industry has multiple ramifications:

1. Direct costs

Each work-related employee fatality is estimated to cost the employer well over $100,000 in workers’ compensation alone. As a result of injuries sustained by employees in crashes, companies incur substantial costs including:

  • Direct and indirect medical care and disability payments; physical and vocational
  • Overtime that may be necessary to cover the work of a missing employee.
  • Loss of special knowledge or skills that are difficult to replace.
  • Recruiting and replacing personnel on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • Reassigning and/or re-training employees.
  • Lost business due to absenteeism.
  • Legal fees.
  • Increase in long-term rates for workers’ compensation, property, liability, commercial auto and health insurances.

2. Indirect costs

In addition to direct costs, injuries and fatalities sustained by employees may result in costs that are not immediately apparent, such as:

  • Lost productivity resulting from using less experienced or less specialized replacement personnel, or from time taken by other employees to “fill in” or to train replacements.
  • Operational delays and losses resulting from the absence of the injured employees’ services.
  • Diminished company reputation among shippers, vendors, employee recruiting base, as well as with the public, resulting in subsequent business losses.
  • Decreased employee morale.
  • Regulatory and enforcement actions.
  • Inability to attract new employees and retain existing employees.

Where our Roundtable attorneys stand on the issue

According to the FMCSA, most truckers are, in fact, buckling up. This, of course, is welcoming news. It’s our hope at the Roundtable that this rule entices everyone to do so.

The reality is that it takes less than five seconds to buckle up but failing to do so can lead to lifelong consequences.

Related info:

NHTSA would mandate seat belts on commercial buses

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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