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Latest FMSCA proposal will cause more truck accidents by tired truck drivers

September 22, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

The trucking industry backs away from using the  word “fatigued” in CSA safety program

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently proposed some changes to its CSA program.  There is one proposed change that suggests the FMCSA is bowing to industry pressure, at the expense of saving lives from fatigued truck drivers.  The proposed change is a shame, and it is  misguided:

Changing the name of the Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service (HOS)) BASIC to the HOS Compliance BASIC: This Fatigued Driving BASIC continues to have a strong association with future crash risk. The action is being taken to reflect that the BASIC includes hours of service record keeping requirements that do not necessarily indicate fatigued driving or driving in excess of allowable hours.

This is a cop-out by the FMCSA, which is caving to political pressure by the trucking industry.  This proposal has nothing to do with preventing truck accidents or increasing safety.

It actually does the exact opposite.

What’s really at play is the trucking industry doesn’t like the negative word choice of “fatigued driving” and complained. So the FMCSA is shunning the word.

But this is a good word.  It accurately describes the problem and the cause of these truck accidents.  Additionally, the FMCSA says its science is accurate, and is responsible for a 5% drop in truck accident fatalities in the past year.

If this has indeed saved hundreds of lives, then why deliberately weaken the terminology from “fatigued driving” to “HOS compliance”?

If this wording has indeed saved hundreds of lives, why not make the word choice in the proposal stronger?

Why not call the entire CSA BASIC categories “Violations Known to Cause Truck Crashes that Kill and Injure Innocent Drivers”?

After all, this is the whole point of the federal safety regulations and it is why the FMCSA states it needs BASIC data in the first place.

“Fatigued driving” is a huge known killer. It’s a factor in about 1/3 of all the truck accidents throughout the country.

Statistics tell us that known violators, truckers who drive while fatigued, are more likely to be involved in truck crashes than commercial carriers with good safety records.

Why the trucking industry can get away with vetoing safety

The U.S. trucking industry has litigated and protested everything that can reduce and prevent truck accidents.  This includes alerts, warnings and any increase in liability insurance limits for 30 years.

The U.S. trucking industry has also successfully lobbied to have the MCS-150A stricken because it was valuable in showing how many motor carriers were CHOOSING to ignore safety regulations.

The game is stacked in favor of the industry and against safety efforts that will save thousands of lives in preventable trucking accidents. The insurers and commercial motor carriers can ask their defense lawyers, who are paid hourly, to create an industry “issue” for negative change.

As past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Group during the Bush Administration, I remember what it was like when there was a truly motivated administrator who resisted safety efforts during those years.

This is the end result of money and politics trumping proven safety measures that would save thousands of lives and prevent truck crashes.

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