In order to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate trucking, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA) requires drivers to submit to a medical certification process and to be cleared to safety drive. Motor carriers are obligated to verify that drivers they employ have a current medical certificate and to keep copies of the certificates in their drivers’ files. The scope of the regulations require truck drivers to be medically qualified not only to operate the vehicles safety, but also to perform all inspection procedures related to its operation which are required for safety. Examples include the ability to check the stability of the load being hauled, the ability to physically verify that one’s load is properly secured, as well as being physically fit enough to perform a complete and thorough pre and post trip inspection of the tractor, trailer and related safety systems. Certain health conditions will render a driver disqualified to operate the vehicle. Examples include epilepsy, insulin use, medical marijuana use, hearing and vision loss (for a more complete list, see 49 CFR 391.41).
Proper maintenance and inspections of commercial vehicles, including tractor trailers, are critical for the safety of the public. And while it would seem that common sense would dictate that drivers and commercial carriers keep their vehicles in prime condition, as a trucking lawyer I see examples of poor maintenance all too frequently – often with catastrophic or even deadly results.
For the first time, the federal administration has proposed a federal motor vehicle safety standard that would include the installation of electronic stability control systems on all commercial vehicles, including trucks and buses.
Let’s say you are walking on the side of a road and you are hit and injured by a big rig as it barrels down the road. Let’s also assume you own a car in NJ that is covered by a standard automobile insurance policy. Who pays your medical bills?
Last year, fatal crashes involving bus companies surged as intercity bus travel became the fastest-growing mode of commercial transportation in the United States. In 2011, at least 28 people were tragically and senselessly killed in 8 fatal crashes. According to a Bloomberg article, these frightening numbers include 3 fatal crashes that occurred in an 11 week period involving carriers operating out of, or carrying passengers between, Chinatown neighborhoods in East Coast cities.
Recently, CNNMoney reported that there are currently as many as 200,000 job openings nationwide for long haul truckers. It is anticipated that the number of open positions will increase with time, as the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicated that the trucking industry will add 310,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020 – an increase of 20% over the 1,500,000 truck drivers that are currently on the road.