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Obama Administration steps up action against unsafe trucking companies … for now

July 25, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

More dangerous motor carriers are being taken off the roads, but Michigan truckers are still a large part of the problem

According to published reports, in the last two years, the Obama Administration has issued as many imminent hazard orders placing unsafe bus and truck companies out of service as in the previous decade combined.

If a truck is considered “out of service,” it means that there are safety violations that are so dangerous, that the truck would need to be towed away for immediate repair if it were stopped by a police officer.

As part of the administration’s effort to better enforce commercial trucking safety and prevent truck accidents, it has cracked down on unsafe carriers through surprise inspections, full compliance reviews and enforcement actions.

Here are the statistics:

Between 2000 and 2009, the FMCSA issued a total of 14 imminent hazard orders placing unsafe motor carriers out of service (and taking them off the roads). In the last two years, the FMCSA has already issued another 14 imminent hazard orders to take carriers that pose an immediate risk to passengers off the road.

Why truck accident lawyers still need help from the FMCSA to prevent truck accidents

For much of the previous Bush Administration, the only ones holding deliberately reckless trucking companies accountable were the truck accident lawyers using the civil justice system.

This news from the Obama Administration is encouraging. It’s a great start to stopping trucking companies who knowingly break federal safety rules in order to push their bottom line. These trucking companies are hiring dangerous truck drivers with previous accidents, failing to maintain their fleets and pushing their truckers (who are not properly trained) to drive past legal time limits.

But there are countless trucking companies who are still engaging in this illegal behavior, causing truck accidents — and getting away with it.

How is this happening?

There are many ways for these problems to go undetected. For example, the FMSCA says it has performed surprise inspections to catch unsafe motor carriers. But what about “Road Check,” which is announced months ahead of time, giving trucking companies time to take their worst trucks off the road and put their best foot forward? Take a look at our blog on the subject: Is that truck driving behind you dangerously out of service?

How Michigan trucking companies are especially dangerous

The problem of dangerous trucking companies breaking laws and causing serious — preventable– truck accidents in even worse in Michigan.

In our state, we have no punitive damages. So trucking companies are able to hire the worst truckers who have caused accidents in other states and “grass hop” here until they cause another accident. The truck companies then must only pay the insurance policy limits. Many of these truckers are on drugs and drinking. They face no civil penalties for hurting and killing people in Michigan truck crashes.

This is why it came at no surprise to me that the FMSCA reported that in June of 2011, the DOT issued an imminent hazard order to a Michigan trucking company found to be transporting passengers in luggage compartments.

Imagine that.

Also, in the past four months, the FMCSA has issued eight out-of-service orders. FMCSA issued these orders immediately following safety investigations that found the carriers and/or the drivers to be in such substantial non-compliance with federal safety regulations as to pose an imminent hazard to public safety. One of these out-of-service orders was issued to a truck company based in Michigan.

Next week, I’ll blog more about the Obama administration and truck inspections.

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for truck accidents. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Obama, FMCSA surrender to trucking industry – again

Things to know after a Michigan truck accident

Michigan truck accident FAQs

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our truck accident lawyers.

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