The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn its November 28, 2014 advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) increasing financial responsibility for motor carriers, freight forwarders, and brokers. FMCSA is authorized to establish minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers at or above the minimum levels set by Congress.

The 2014 ANPRM arose from a study ordered by Congress in response to the increasing costs of truck-related crashes. In April of 2014, FMCSA reported to Congress that current financial responsibility minimums for the commercial motor vehicle industry were inadequate to meet the costs of some crashes. Congress considered raising the insurance minimum for general freight from $750,000 to $1 million, but decided to have FMCSA prepare an analysis that could become the basis for changes in the standard. The last minimum adjustment was in 1985, which set the current standard of $750,000 for general freight, $5 million for the most dangerous hazmat freight and $1 million for other hazmat freight.

Continue Reading FMCSA Withdraws Rulemaking for Increase Minimum Insurance Requirements

Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) has proposed a bill to ban big rigs on Route 29 in Trenton. As reported by the Trenton Times/NJ.com, trucks weighing more than 13 tons will no longer allowed on Rt. 29 in Trenton, with the exception of trucks making local deliveries within three miles. Trucks over 13 tons would be banned from traveling on Route 29 from I-95 in Ewing to Route 129 in Hamilton.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 5-0 for the bill. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

A 2002 traffic regulation already prohibits trucks weighing more than 13 tons from the section of Route 29 at issue — but the new bill would make it permanent. Traffic regulations are subject to change by the Department of Transportation.

Turner said that portion of Route 29 is a heavily traveled route that goes through residential and commercial areas in Trenton. She noted that trucks often carry hazardous materials that may be dangerous to other motorists and the surrounding neighborhoods.

While driving, you may occasionally notice protruding spike-like lug nut covers on the wheels of tractor-trailers. While usually made of plastic, these spikes may also be made of aluminum or metal. One hazard is that these spikes may extend out too far from the outer edge of the rim of the wheel and come into contact with other vehicles, including motorcyclists and bicyclists, or even pedestrians.

As I previously discussed in a prior blog post, nearly half of bicyclists and one quarter of pedestrians who are killed by a large truck first impact the side of the truck. It is easy to see the increased danger of side impacts if the bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian makes contact with a wheel’s spikes.

Continue Reading Are Spiked Wheel Ornaments a Safety Hazard?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a proposed rule revising its method for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers. The notice of proposed rulemaking, issued on Jan. 21, 2016, set forth a new methodology for evaluating whether a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

FMCSA’s proposal sought to replace its current three safety fitness ratings — “satisfactory,” “conditional,” and “unsatisfactory” — with just one rating, “unfit.” However, that idea was challenged by some industry groups, including the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). The NSTA stated that the current safety fitness rating system aligns well with the safety culture within the school transportation industry. NSTA raised concerns that the proposed new system would leave a safe carrier unrated, offering limited guidance on the safety record of the carrier and causing potential confusion among carriers, law enforcement, and the public.

Continue Reading FMCSA Withdraws Proposal on Safety Fitness Determination

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is continuing its campaign to prevent crashes by improving commercial truck safety. It recently issued a modification rule to allow voluntary placement of safety devices in the windshield area of cars and commercial vehicles. These safety systems are reputed to decrease driver errors and protect those on the road from catastrophic crashes and injuries. The FMCA has the authority to “regulate drivers, motor carriers, and vehicle equipment,” including regulatory power over commercial vehicle safety.

Continue Reading New Rule Permits Windshield-Mounted Safety Devices

Have you ever seen a big rig parked on the shoulder of the Interstate? How about twenty of them? In the town of Mahwah, New Jersey, this is a daily occurrence. Every night truckers turn the shoulder of Interstate 287 into an improvised truck stop. This is both a nuisance and a danger.

The area where the truckers stop has steep inclines and the highway shrinks from three lanes to two, which is dangerous enough without big rigs blocking the shoulder. Truckers claim that they have no choice—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says they have to stop driving after 11 hours and that’s what they do—right there in the emergency lane of I-287. However, if trucking companies and truck drivers responsibly planned their routes, there would not be such a large number of trucks dangerously and illegally parked on the roadway each night.

Continue Reading Illegal Truck Stops—Drivers Ditch Safety for Convenience

Monday’s Huffington Post contained an article entitled “Trucks are getting more dangerous and drivers are falling asleep at the wheel. Thank Congress.” This article is described as “the inside story on how the trucking industry and politicians have conspired to make our highways less safe.”

The article in question highlights the catastrophic collision and injuries suffered by Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder when his police vehicle was struck by a flatbed due to the driver’s fatigue. It then draws a link between this specific instance and Congress’ ongoing failure to protect the public from the negligent conduct of the trucking industry.

More specifically, the article outlines how Congress has been caving to lobbyists from the trucking industry that want to roll back, block, and/or modify at least a half-dozen safety regulations.

While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recognized the mounting evidence demonstrating that sleep apnea has caused perilous levels of fatigue to drivers, pilots, train engineers, and others who need to remain alert at work, trucking lobbyists have been successful in persuading the FMCSA to back off and ultimately withdraw its proposed rules that would have required over weight truckers to get checked for sleep apnea.

To further compound this egregious conduct, trucking industry lobbyists “approached allies in Congress to write a law that would require the agency to follow the longer, more cumbersome formal rule making course.”  This was done to slow the FMCSA from enacting more stringent rules that would make our highways safer.

If you were involved in a trucking accident, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.

The Obama administration today is proposing training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators, as mandated by Congress as part of MAP-21.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called it a “major step towards ensuring that commercial vehicle drivers receive the necessary training required to safely operate a large truck or motorcoach.”

Specifically, those seeking a “Class A” commercial drivers license would have to have no less than 30 hours of training behind the wheel from a program that meets minimum FMCSA standards. This also includes at least 10 hours of practice driving.

For a “Class B” commercial driver’s license, applicants would have to have at least 15 hours of training behind the wheel and seven hours on a practice range.

The new standards would apply to any first-time CDL applicants, those with a current CDL license seeking an upgrade or additional endorsement, and anyone who had previously been disqualified from a CDL again seeking to be licensed. Military drivers, farmers and firefighters would continue to be exempt.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has posted on their website that on Thursday, January 21, 2016, that the FMCSA will publish a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to establish new methods for a motor carrier to be classified as unfit.

Under the NPRM, the 34-year old system of dividing commercial motor carrier’s safety ratings into three tiers—“satisfactory,” “conditional,” or “unsatisfactory”—would instead be replaced with a simpler designation of “unfit.” Carriers deemed unfit would have to improve safety levels or cease operations.

Other changes in the proposed rule are:

  • Carriers would be assessed monthly, using fixed failure measures that are identified in the NPRM. Stricter standards would be based on those from the agency’s Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) with a higher correlation to crash risk, which include examining unsafe driving, Hours-of-Service (HoS) compliance, and driver fitness.
  • Violations of a revised list of “critical” and “acute” safety regulations would result in failing a BASIC.
  • All investigation results would be used, not just from comprehensive on-site reviews.
  • A carrier would be proposed unfit by failing two or more BASICs through:
    1. Inspections
    2. Investigation results
    3. A combination of both

The carriers identified in the agency’s analysis have crash rates that are more than three times the national average.

Unfortunately, those marginal carriers that are currently rated as “conditional” will now be listed as satisfactory. This will make it difficult for brokers, shippers, and the general public to identify “high-risk carriers,” thereby making it more difficult to hold these carriers responsible when they injure and kill innocent victims on our highways.

If you were injured as a result of a trucking accident, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.