Are trucks killing us? This is the position put forth by an editorial in the New York Times, which explained the rising rates of deaths being caused by collisions involving commercial truck drivers. Over a four-year period of time, there was a 17 percent rise in fatalities involving large trucks. This happened during the same four years when a three percent decline in car accident fatalities occurred. In many of these truck crashes, it was not the truck driver or a passenger in the truck who was killed. It was another motorist, pedestrian, or bicyclist who just happened to be on the road when the truck was there.
Trucks can already be menaces on the roads, endangering motorists due to their large size and the greater potential for injury in collisions. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to get worse because CNBC reports there is likely to be a substantial rollback in trucking safety rules and requirements.
The rollback in trucking safety rules and requirements is a likely outcome of the recent election in November of 2016. Donald Trump will be presiding over a unified Republican government, with Republicans holding majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
President Trump campaigned on a platform of, among other things, repealing regulations. He has promised that if a new regulation is to be passed, two old regulations will be eliminated. A lot of the regulations that could be up for elimination are in the trucking industry.
Republicans already used a must-pass spending bill to eliminate one rule that had been passed to try to fight drowsy trucking accidents. The rule mandated a 34-hour rest break after weekly driving limits were met, with two periods of time during the 34-hours required to occur overnight. The trucking industry fought the regulation, and Republicans were able to stop its enforcement during the last congressional session.
Now that there is both a President and a legislative branch which are united in removing rules and regulations they believe are stifling jobs and industry, many more rules may disappear or become more lax. For example, trucking industries want the rules changed to allow for 18-year-olds to become eligible for commercial driving positions that now have to be 21 to qualify for. Trucking lobbying groups are also advocating for truck weight limits to be raised from 80,000 pounds to 90,000 pounds, as well as for an increase in the maximum length of tractor-trailers.
If lawmakers start to change and loosen safety rules, the consequences could be profound for road safety. The death rate in truck crashes, which has already been rising before all the safety rules were done away with, is likely to become much higher. Truckers and motorists must be aware of the added dangers and should take precaution to try to be as safe as possible.