Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2013 show 3,964 fatal semi-trailer accidents and 95,000 others resulting to injuries. Despite this alarming numbers, the government remains cautious on imposing too many restrictions on trucking companies and truck operators due to the major contribution their huge vehicles give for the growth of the U.S. economy. In other words, imposing additional laws and restrictions on truckers may only cripple the country’s ability to do business.
The U.S. government has always shown its reluctance in burdening truck operators with higher taxes or in mandating that drivers be given higher wages. Well, let this be the case, at least for now. However, what it should never do is let its guard down against trucking companies’ lobbyists who are seeking and fighting for reforms on laws that will have a direct effect on the safe operation of big rigs, like, reforms on requirements on the qualification of applicant drivers, number of hours or service, safety standard for truck parts, size limit of double trailers, and, maintenance of a record that will show regular truck inspection. This is because specific proposals by trucking companies’ lobbyists include:
Extension of work hours from 70-hour per week to 82 hours a week.
Trucks be allowed to haul loads heavier than the present federal limit, which is 80,000 pounds (one way to do this is to allow trucks to have longer double trailers); and,
Labor costs be reduced through the hiring of lower-paid drivers – those as young as 18;
A lot of trucking companies and truck operators face the problem of completing job runs and ensuring timely deliveries due to shortage in the number of qualified drivers. To keep their business in operation, many operators and employers have resorted to hiring unskilled drivers, besides no longer screening applicants for past records or driving violations, taking no action in punishing drivers who incur traffic violations, and requiring some drivers to drive longer than the allowed number of service.
Errors committed by drivers behind the wheel can have catastrophic results; so too are the errors committed by trucking companies and employers. Trucking companies are legally responsible in making sure that laws regarding employee hiring and safe vehicle operation are strictly observed, as this will greatly affect the well-being of everyone on the road. If and when trucking companies fail to uphold these standards, then they can be held financially responsible for their failure to act in accordance with the dictates of the law.
Thus, as explained by the law firm Habush Habush & Rottier, S.C. ®, “A trucking company has a responsibility to properly train and screen their employees, keeping potentially dangerous drivers out of a position which would place them in control of a massive and potentially dangerous motor vehicle. If a trucking company fails in these duties, it may bear legal liability for the consequences of accidents which occur.”