Approximately 65% of all truck accidents that result in fatalities happen on long-haul trips.

Federal Rules Aim to Reduce Accidents, Fatalities

Approximately 500,000 truck accidents occur every year in the U.S., and one in eight of those accidents involves at least one fatality. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS):

  • 96% of those killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a commercial truck were occupants of the passenger vehicles.
  • 31% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in collisions with a commercial truck in 2018 were struck head-on by the truck, 24% were side-struck by the truck, and 23% involved a passenger vehicle striking the rear of a truck.
  • Approximately 65% of all truck accidents that result in fatalities happen on long-haul trips, likely due to fatigue on the part of truckers, who average less than five hours of sleep per night while on the road.

The trucking industry could be considered a heavily regulated one, and a number of further regulations have been passed recently that are expected to have a major effect on the industry.

Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Implementation

The ELD rule that took effect on December 16, 2019, requires most carriers to utilize electronic devices (ELDs) to track drivers’ work hours instead of relying on paper logbooks. Other requirements of the ELD rule include:

  • ELDs must be certified and registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The rule also sets ELD performance and design standards.
  • The rule establishes the supporting documents drivers and carriers must keep.
  • Harassment of drivers based on ELD data or fleet management systems is prohibited, and recourse for drivers who believe they have been harassed is provided.

Fines for ELD violations range from $1,000 to $10,000.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

As of January 6, 2020, all fleets are required to participate in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which gives employers and other authorized users real-time data about drug and alcohol abuses by people holding commercial driver’s licenses or learner’s permits. Registered CDL users can use the clearinghouse to provide electronic consent to release detailed drug and alcohol violation information to a current or prospective employer; to review their own record for incorrect information; and to identify a substance abuse professional if they have an unresolved drug and alcohol program violation on their record.

Entry-Level Training

In February 2020, a new federal entry-level driver training program began to set the minimum CDL training standards. The entry-level driver training program incorporates new requirements from the FMCSA and is being implemented in public, private, and state CDL schools. As part of the new standards, entry-level drivers are now required to complete a knowledge-based program as well as behind-the-wheel courses and receive entry-level training only at institutions listed on the FMCSA’s Trainer Provider Registry. Driving instructors must have possessed an active CDL for at least two years before training other drivers.

Assembly Bill 5 (AB5)

California’s Employees and Independent Contractors law (AB5) makes it more difficult to categorize workers as independent contractors and has the potential to significantly impact the way the trucking industry operates in that state. The new law assumes that workers are employees, and to prove otherwise, the hiring company is required to demonstrate that the worker meets very specific criteria under a three-part test. On January 8, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that AB5 is pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (F4A). However, the victory for the trucking industry is likely temporary, as legal challenges over misclassification in trucking continue to be an issue.

New Hours of Service Rules

In May, the FMCSA published a final rule updating the hours of service (HOS) rules to increase safety on U.S. roads. The updates include:

  • Adding flexibility to the requirement for a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving
  • The sleeper-berth exclusion will be modified to allow drivers to divide their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split
  • Expands the driving window by two hours during adverse conditions
  • The short-haul exception available to some drivers will be modified by extending the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and by increasing the distance limit within which the driver can operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The new HOS rule will be implemented 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

If you were injured as the result of an accident involving a large commercial truck, contact Colorado personal injury attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911 for a free consultation.

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