Lawmakers Ask FMCSA To Dilute Truck Driver Requirements

by | Nov 18, 2021 | Truck Accidents

In light of the ongoing truck driver shortage and current supply chain problems, a group of Republican Senators wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to allow teenagers to operate big rig trucks on long haul assignments.

The signatories predicted that the lower age requirement would “get American goods and services moving again.” Furthermore, “Those seeking an alternative pathway to an expensive four-year degree may find the three-year gap between high school graduation and the eligible age for interstate trucking inhibitive,” they noted. 

The senate has already approved an under-21 pilot program, but rulemakers have yet to finalize details of these apprenticeships.

What Causes Truck Crashes?

The FMCAS has a difficult task. This agency must keep goods flowing while it protects motorists from truck crashes. These priorities are usually at odds. That’s especially true nowadays. Although the worst of the coronavirus pandemic appears to be over, its effects, including economic effects on the supply chain, linger. On the other side, the number of serious truck accidents has increased significantly since 2009. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Driver Inexperience: A fully-loaded semi-truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. It’s very difficult even for experienced operators to control these huge vehicles. Drivers of light cars and trucks can normally correct driving errors on the fly. Such correction is almost impossible for large truck operators.
  • Driver Fatigue: Long-haul truckers have quantity and quality of sleep issues. To meet deadline bonuses and other milestones, truckers must remain behind the wheel as long as possible. Furthermore, instead of their own beds, many truckers must use sleeping berths or cheap motels. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Kentucky.
  • Drug Use: A third of truckers admitted that they used drugs while on the job. Amphetamines were the most common culprit. These drugs help drivers stay awake. But they also prompt drivers to take additional risks. They often drive too fast or make dangerous lane changes. Furthermore, when these stimulants wear off, a huge crash usually follows.
  • Maintenance Issue: On average, truckers put more than 45,000 miles a year on their rigs. That’s an awful lot of wear and tear. Given the aforementioned huge loads these vehicles normally haul, a small mechanical problem, like a slightly worn brake cable, can be a major problem. Either the trucking company or the product manufacturer could be legally responsible for these crashes. More on that below.

Truck wrecks usually cause catastrophic injuries, such as crushed bones, head injuries, and serious burns. As a result, these victims are faced with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. So, if a Lexington personal injury attorney establishes that the victim was not legally responsible for the wreck, substantial compensation is available.

First Party Liability

Truck drivers are commercial operators in Kentucky. Therefore, they have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers. That higher duty of care makes it easier to establish negligence, or a lack of care. Both the ordinary negligence principle and the negligence per se rule are available in these cases.

Ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Driving while fatigued or under the influence of drugs clearly violates this duty. Especially because of the aforementioned higher duty of care, truckers must be in top mental and physical shape when they get behind the wheel. If a lack of care causes a wreck, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) could be legally responsible for damages.

Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. Either fatigue or drug use could involve this rule. Kentucky has strict laws which control HOS (hours of service) and drugged driving is the legal equivalent of drunk driving.

However, even in obvious negligence per se cases, officers often don’t issue citations. They do not want to become involved in what they see as a civil dispute. Furthermore, drug use and fatigue don’t always violate safety laws. People could be too sleepy to drive even if they have not legally exceeded HOS minimums. That’s especially true since the FMCSA has watered down these rules in recent years. As for drug use, there’s a difference between impairment and intoxication. Only intoxication violates the DUI law, but impairment is just as dangerous.

Third Party Liability

Generally, the shipping or transportation company is financially responsible for damages when a driver is negligent. The respondeat superior rule applies if the negligent driver was an employee acting in the scope of employment at the time of the wreck.

State law broadly defines these key terms. For example, most drivers are owner-operators or independent contractors for tax purposes. But since employers control them, in terms of things like cargo hauled, drivers are employees for negligence purposes.

Defective product maintenance claims work differently. Usually, manufacturers are strictly liable for damages their defective products cause. Negligence, or lack thereof, is typically irrelevant.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers