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Proposed Federal Trucking Safety Regulations Aimed at Decreasing Deadly Truck Accidents 

Two 18-wheelers side by side at sunset. New federal regulations would prevent deadly truck accidents.

“We are experiencing a truck crash fatality crisis we have not witnessed in generations.” Those are words straight from the executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) this week. 

As deaths from truck crashes have increased 48% over the last decade, and fatalities have risen for the eighth year in a row, it finally appears that federal transportation officials are taking action to prevent the crisis from worsening, reports the Pittsburgh Post Gazette — but not so fast.  

New federal rules that would require crash avoidance technology in new trucks and greatly reduce the risk of catastrophic and fatal accidents face stiff opposition from powerful lobbyists and politicians — a tale as old as time and one that jeopardizes efforts to keep our nation’s roads and highways safe from reckless trucking companies that will stop at nothing to put profits above all else. 

Here’s what you need to know about these proposed safety regulations and the startling statistics that show just how bad our nation needs to reign in the trucking industry. 

Crash Avoidance Technology Part of Proposed Safety Regulations  

After years of safety advocates, including the TSC and victims of 18-wheeler accidents, pushing for the adoption of safety mandates comparable to those in other parts of the world, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally seem poised to impose stricter regulations on trucking companies and their drivers. 

The two federal regulatory agencies may soon require new trucks to have: 

  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard equipment on all new trucks and 18-wheelers aimed at reducing unsafe speeds, which are now a well-documented factor in death and injury 
  • Speed limiting devices in trucks over 10,000 pounds to reduce the deadly consequences of excessive speeding 
  • Stronger guards to prevent cars in a crash from sliding under the rear of a large truck — to be clear, safety advocates have long called for trucks to have side guards as well as rear guards and have called out that this rule falls short of what is needed and what trailer manufacturers already produce. In response, the NHTSA has set up an advisory committee to look at whether side guards should be required. 

The European Union already require AEBs and speed limiters in new trucks, but the U.S. has continued to allow the trucking industry to put profits over the safety of all Americans who travel our nation’s roads and highways.   

That may change if the rule on speed limiters comes out next month as planned and the automatic emergency braking rules follow suit next year. However, if these regulations are delayed or a new administration is voted in, we may very well see regulations slashed and federal agencies gutted as they have been in the past, giving the trucking industry the leeway to do seemingly whatever it wants. 

The Long Road to New Safety Regulations 

Sadly, the National Transportation Safety Board — the independent U.S. government investigative agency tasked with looking into transportation accidents — first recommended both automatic emergency braking and speed limiters way back in 1995. And federal agencies that regulate the trucking industry have been considering requiring speed limiters, AEBs, and rear guards in new trucks for going on almost a decade. But the road to get to this point has been plagued by fierce opposition both from the trucking industry and politicians.  

For instance, the U.S. Department of Transportation did not advance a single major safety regulation during the Trump era. In fact, the Trump administration weakened hours of service rules aimed at preventing fatigue-related truck accidents and the Trump-era FMCSA also dropped proposed rules on testing drivers for obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that studies show 33% of truck drivers may suffer from and which increases the risk of having a wreck by 123%. 

Only since President Biden took office in 2021 did safety advocates see a possibility that new regulations might be introduced and enforced.  Biden tragically lost his first wife and daughter to a fatal truck accident in 1972. 

Shortly after Biden took office, congress demanded new safety regulations as part of his $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure bill.  In 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a National Roadway Safety Strategy, funded by the bill, that calls for new safety rules.   

The strategy is a high-level road map for how federal agencies will work together to put stricter regulations in place and describes “the major actions we will take to make a meaningful difference over the next few years” to create safer roadways. In fact, the FMCSA already cited the strategy in its Notice of Intent to require speed-limiting devices in trucks.  

5,887 Died in Truck Wrecks in 2022 

Millions of drivers haul billions of tons of freight across our country every year — earning the trucking industry hundreds of billion in annual revenue. These truck drivers get us the goods we need every day, but in 2022 alone, they contributed to more than half a million large truck accidents nationwide.  

That same year, 5,887 people were killed in crashes involving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, according to early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

In Texas, we have also seen an unending surge in truck accidents and we lead the nation in truck accidents and fatalities. In fact, new research has even indicated that truck accidents are deadlier in oil and gas producing regions, which are prevalent in the Lone Star State.  

The common causes of truck accidents are well known: speeding, fatigue, and driver distraction contribute to deadlier wrecks.

An estimated 7.3% of fatal truck accidents involve a driver going in excess of the posted speed limit. Impairment and inattention each account for 5.2% of deadly collisions involving large trucks and 18-wheelers.

These statistics clearly back the need for new, stricter regulations.   

The Proposed Trucking Safety Regulations Would Save Lives

The research is already there to back this: 

  • Speed-limiting devices make trucks less deadly, hands down. Nearly 40% of truck accident fatalities in 2019, about 1,500 fatalities, occurred when the posted speed limit was 65 mph or higher, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 
  • Automatic braking systems could prevent more than 19.000 crashes per year.  According to the FMCSA, requiring automatic emergency braking systems in trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, would prevent an estimated 19,000 crashes and 8,814 injuries and save 155 lives each year. 
  • Rear guards would save hundreds of lives annually. Underride collisions kill an average of 219 people annually, representing roughly 1% of all traffic-related fatalities and 5.4% of all trucking-related deaths. 

Furthermore, many new trucks being produced today already have this technology built in. So, why would anyone oppose these measures? 

150,000+ Still Opposed to New Trucking Safety Regulations  

Even with these devastating statistics in mind, the 150,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to these new federal regulations, and with big money to lobby on Capitol Hill, the group is finding allies in congress. 

In fact, a Republican House transportation bill currently on the floor could block the federal government from moving ahead with either proposal. 

Currently, The American Trucking Association seems to support the idea of crash avoidance technology, but that is likely because they don’t know enough about the rules yet to express an opinion — that will likely change when they do learn more. 

The executive vice president of the OOIDA has likened the implementation of crash avoidance technology to “safety gimmicks that could be put on trucks so we can train the driver less.” 

Whatever the excuse, the trucking industry will stop at nothing to avoid responsibility and put its profits over safety.  Truck lobbyists have increased their spending on Capitol Hill drastically in 2023, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and increased donations made to lawmakers by industry PACS by 39% since 2021. 

For many safety advocates, the best solution would be for these rules to be signed into law to force the agencies to move, but these advocates don’t even have a lobbyist. 

Contact Our Undefeated Truck Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation at 1-888-603-3636 or CLICK HERE 

Our Undefeated 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyers continue to monitor the progress of proposed federal truck safety regulations and fight to hold trucking companies accountable for their reckless behavior.  

We’ve won Billions and successfully represented thousands of individuals and families in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and across the United States who had their lives forever changed by a catastrophic truck accident. We don’t just win for truck and 18-wheeler accident victims – we set records

Have questions about your rights and options after a truck accident?  Call us today at 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form. 

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