There's no question, the trucking industry is essential to our nation now more than ever. Like healthcare workers, truck drivers have been vital to keeping the country safe by transporting much-needed supplies across the nation.
But the increased need for supplies and the recent changes in trucking regulations could put drivers at a higher risk for accidents. For example, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), which performs a yearly inspection of commercial trucks across the country and in Canada, postponed their annual safety inspection from May 5 – 7 until later this year. Every year, this event uncovers thousands of vehicle and driver safety issues that need to be addressed. And now that it is postponed, all current matters will go unchecked until a new date is set, exposing other drivers to a potentially increased risk of danger.
Another potential risk involves the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) decision to relax restrictions on new trainee truck drivers. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, student drivers holding only a commercial learner's permit (CLP) were required to have a CDL licensed driver in the passenger seat. But under the new waiver, they can operate their vehicles without a license-holder riding in the passenger seat of the vehicle provided that 1) the CLP holder passed a CDL driving skills test, and 2) a CDL license holder is somewhere in the truck. This decision may help avoid shortages of drivers, but it also means that there could be more inexperienced drivers on the road.
Finally, as we discussed last week, the federal government is changing the driving hours limitations. The trucking industry and associations are in favor of these changes, but some truck drivers and unions believe it puts them at an increased risk for accidents since it expands a truck driver's workday from 12 hours to 14 hours.
The U.S. trucking industry currently employs over 7 million people and moves 70% of the nation's domestic freight. In 2018, there were 4,951 deaths from accidents involving large trucks, and the U.S. government estimates that this number increased by one percent in 2019 even though the overall total of fatalities in the nation dropped by more than a percentage point.
So, with postponed safety checks, more inexperienced drivers on the road, and increased time that truck drivers can be on the roads, will we see an increased number of accidents? Only time will tell.
DeSouza Law Firm is a leading personal injury firm representing accident victims throughout Texas.
If you've been injured by a car, truck, 18 wheeler, company vehicle, or in the oilfield, call DeSouza Injury Lawyers today at 361-799-2222