Will the U.S. government shutdown threaten truck safety?
On October 1, 2013, Congress failed to act and the United States government shutdown. And the news has been constantly buzzing about the federal government shutdown after Congress failed to enact regular appropriations or a continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year.
We’ve all seen the consequences of the government shutdown. Sadly, they’re widespread and they will cause pain. Approximately 800,000 federal employees are indefinitely placed on an involuntary leave without pay, while another 1.3 million employees were required to report to work without any pay whatsoever until a new appropriations bill is passed.
But what does the government shutdown mean for truck safety? Will the numbers of truck accidents and bus crashes suddenly spike throughout the nation?
The answer (at least for now) is no. Because of how the FMCSA is funded, the October 1 shutdown should have no immediate impact on trucking safety, and should not increase the numbers of truck and bus crashes. As public affairs officer for the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group, I’ve been closely following the shutdown and its consequences.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), is not funded by general congressional appropriations. It is somewhat unique in this aspect. The FMCSA and the FHA are financed by the Highway Trust Fund and multi-year appropriations bills, like the MAP-21 highway funding law, which we’ve previously discussed on this blog. Thus, Congress’ failure to agree on appropriations does not immediately affect the funding of these agencies.
Unfortunately, this is not true of all of the Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is funded by Congressional appropriations, and therefore, must endure employee cuts and/or have federal employees working without pay. Similarly, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will all experience the similar reductions during the shutdown.
Hopefully the government will resolve this shutdown quickly and amicably. But as discussed, because of how the FMCSA is funded, our truck accident attorneys are not expecting to see a spike in truck accidents during the shutdown. Federal regulators will still remain in place to police the trucking industry, and continue the fight against dangerous trucking companies that break the rules.