New semi truck legislation on the horizon

The United States Senate and the Truck Safety Coalition are working to improve trucking safety throughout the country. At this time many road deaths and injuries are caused by truck related crashes. At an April 28, 2010 hearing the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee began work on pending trucking legislation. This is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the deaths and injuries caused by large trucks.

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The topics being addressed in this legislation include:

Fatigue and Hours of Service: Truck drivers may soon be required to have electronic recorders to track driver hours behind the wheel. Many accidents are caused by tired drivers, distraction due to fatigue, and simply too many hours behind the wheel.

Size and Weight: There are considerations in place concerning combination vehicles (2-3 trailers). Opponents claim that the risks of these types of vehicles make them too much of a danger as compared to the benefits of being able to move more in less time, and the effect on the environment.

Driver Pay: Across the country there are disputes about how the drivers are paid. Truck drivers are typically paid by the mile; while others are paid by the hour. This distinction can affect the driver’s attitude and speed while on the road, thus affecting safety. For example if a driver who is paid by the mile has to wait at a loading dock for 3 or 4 hours, he is not being paid. This system creates an incentive for the truck driver, once back on the road, to either drive faster or put in excessive hours to make up the lost time in mileage.

“The main cause of trucking accidents is driver fatigue,” according to Robert Foss, a trucking attorney from Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, “Driver fatigue is a major safety issue in this country and any legislation to improve truck safety gets a ‘yay’ by me.  We also know that the larger the truck the more it affects driver stress and fatigue, affecting lane keeping and the overall physiological state of the driver as their workload is greater.”

Besides these important factors, there are other areas in which the trucking industry needs to make changes in order to improve the safety for all people on the road, this includes not only the people in cars, but the truck drivers as well.

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