U.S. Congress Fails to Act on Legislation to Prevent Deadly Underride 18-Wheeler Accidents

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Safety advocates throughout the country are voicing frustration, after the United States Congress failed to pass vital legislation that could prevent deadly underride 18-wheeler accidents.

More than 200 People Die Every Year in Underride Truck Crashes

18-wheelers and other large trucks weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars. What’s more, they are much taller and have far greater ground clearance.

As a result, cars can easily slide under a big rig in the event of a crash.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 200 people die every year in underride collisions.

These accidents are particularly gruesome, as the truck will often shear the roof from a car. In many cases, victims are decapitated

“If there was a plane crash and 200 people died — the government would be all over that,” Lois Durso, whose 26-year-old daughter, Roya Sadigh, was killed in a 2005 underride crash, recently told NBC News.

Congress Adjournes Without Passing “Stop Underrides Act”

An underride truck crash renders airbags and other safety systems commonly found in passenger vehicles utterly useless.

Durso and other safety advocates, however, maintain that underride guards on the sides and front of large commercial trucks would prevent these horrific collisions.

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), introduced the “Stop Underrides Act of 2017.”

The bill would have:

  • Required underride guards on the sides of trailers and the front of trucks.
  • Strengthened standards for rear guards, which have not been updated since 1998.
  • Ensured that the annual inspection for all large trucks included underride guards.
  • Required the U.S. Department of Transportation to review underride standards every 5 years.

Unfortunately, for the past year, the legislation has been stalled in the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

With Congress adjourned for the year, the bill’s future is uncertain.

Sleep Apnea Screening Rule Among Vital Safety Regulations Abandoned Under Trump

Even if the “Stop Underrides Act” passes Congress next year, it’s not clear that the bill would ever become law.

That’s because President Trump might refuse to sign the legislation, considering his well-known hostility to any type of regulation.

In fact, the Trump Administration has already weakened, eliminated, or abandoned many rules and regulations designed to protect innocent motorists from negligent trucking companies and reckless drivers.

In March 2017, for example, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) abandoned a proposed rule to require sleep apnea screening for all commercial drivers.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious medical condition that negatively impacts daytime alertness. Among other thing, the disorder greatly increases the risk that a driver will fall asleep at the wheel.

According to one recent study, nearly a third (28 percent) of commercial truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the condition is often unrecognized and undiagnosed.

The Obama Administration proposed the sleep apnea screening rule after a deadly collision between a tour bus and 18-wheeler killed 13 people outside Palm Springs, California in October 2016.

Federal investigators later determined that the bus driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel. It also appears that both drivers suffered from undiagnosed, Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Since the Palm Spring tragedy, Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been implicated in two New York City-area commuter train crashes, including one that tragically killed a pedestrian.

Trump Administration Targets Hours-of-Service Rules, Other Trucking Safety Measures

Most recently, the FMSCA indicated it would propose modifications to the Hours-of-Service regulations, which limit the number of hours a trucker can drive and work before taking a break.

Since President Trump took office, the agency has also abandoned a plan to revamp the motor carrier safety rating system, as well as a rule that would have required the use of speed-limiting devices on commercial trucks.

“I find the current climate troubling,” John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, told NPR late last year.

“All the numbers are trending the wrong way,” he continued. “We’re over 4,000 deaths a year now in truck crashes. It’s been going up steadily and we need to do something now.”

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