Last week we wrote about the pressure facing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to keep our highways safe with stricter regulations for truckers. Here’s more about necessary improvements to our laws so that everyone is safer on the road.
Large-truck accidents accounted for nearly 4,000 fatalities in 2013—the fourth straight year that the number of truck-related deaths has risen, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. That’s a 17 percent increase based on numbers collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a statement, the NTSB recommended that trucking companies explore more ways to manage driver fatigue and sleep disorders, afflictions that have been the source of several deadly accidents on the road. Sleep deprivation and mandated driving hours remain constant topics of discussion among safety experts and legislators, some of whom find themselves arguing opposite ends of the spectrum. The NTSB also unveiled its “Most Wanted List” of transportation improvements for 2015, including strengthening the safety of commercial trucking through increased industry oversight.
The statistics come at a time when Congress voted to tamp down trucking regulations last year, part of an ongoing trend of legislation that effectively weakens driving limitations and mandated driving hours. An example of one such amendment, passing on a 21-9 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee in early June, rescinded a provision that required drivers to take breaks between the hours of 1-5am. The vote passed despite widespread opposition by safety advocates, transportation experts and the White House, all of which expressed concern for those driving at high speeds in the wee hours of the morning.
Also from NTSB: Highway regulators have failed to act on more than 100 recommendations over the last year to improve truck safety, as trucking lobbyists aggressively seek to protect the working rights of operators and those who maintain clean driving records. It’s a proverbial game of cat and mouse in the eyes of many.
The Board says that safety should be the industry’s highest priority, though recent amendments and deregulations seemingly prove otherwise. When it comes down to it, trucking accidents are increasingly preventable, thanks to new technology such as vehicle sensors. At this stage, sensors are more of a suggestion than a requirement.
So why aren’t more laws being passed to prevent accidents from happening?
The cynical person might chalk it up to the nature of the system — high price of doing business in a fast-paced world. But others, like Steve Pociask, President of the American Consumer Institute, in an opinion piece for the Daily Caller, points out that revisiting transportation reform should be a higher priority for the 114th Congress, whether it be new laws and regulations or revisiting long-standing laws to determine what’s working and what isn’t. But assuming the issue gets swept under the rug, it’s safe to conclude that accidents will continue to happen.