The Associated Press has now reported that the driver of a truck which caused a horrific crash recently in Southern Missouri and resulted in the deaths of two innocent motorists has been officially charged with involuntary manslaughter. The wreck occurred on US Route 60 when the truck driver reportedly rear ended the other vehicles which were stopped at a light, crushing their vehicles between his truck and a second truck which was stopped ahead of the motorists at the light. According to local news reports, the driver of the truck is suspected of having violated the hours of service limits imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA), and likely fell asleep at the wheel. While the FMCA rules, including the hours of service limitations, exist to preserve the safety of the public and those who drive for a living, they are all too frequently violated by truckers and companies looking to squeeze out extra dollars by pushing the limits of safety. The FMCA recently amended the hours of service rules in an effort to further promote safety. For instances, the new rules limit drivers to 70 hours behind the wheel in a seven day period, down from the previous limit of 82 hours. The rules have been met with considerable push back and many will not be in effect until July, 2013. However, this tragic accident serves as an example of exactly why these regulations are necessary.
It’s important to note that the FMCA regulations and other rules governing the trucking industry only work to protect the public when they are followed or otherwise enforced by the companies themselves. When a company ignores the rules, fails or refuses to enforce the rules amongst its drivers, the results are often deadly. Tragically, this particular accident serves as a prominent reminder of this very problem.
According to reports from media local to the crash, the track record of the company for which the at fault driver was working reveals that nearly half of its drivers committed serious federal safety violations, known in this industry as “out of service violations”, in the last several inspections of the company conducted over a two year period. This is an appalling record which should have served as a prominent red flag to those in charge long before this accident ever occurred.