Trading Safety for Support: How Congress Compromised Your Family’s Safety
Trucker fatigue and big rig accidents are a continuing problem in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 100,000 people are injured and killed in truck accidents each year and approximately 39% of those accidents can be attributed to driver fatigue. As a result of these staggering statistics, Congress has been in debate over proposed revisions to the trucking industry's hours of service (HOS) regulations.
The hours of service regulations are supposed to protect both truck drivers and motorists from fatigue-induced accidents. They stipulate how long a trucker can be required to drive without rest, when they should be allowed to rest, and the minimum amount of rest they need to be allotted. Throughout the majority of 2014, Senate Democrats had been pushing new regulations that will decrease the amount of time truckers are permitted to be behind the wheel and increase their rest periods to ensure safe driving. However, Senate Republicans felt that these rules were too burdensome on trucking companies, which should be trusted to set their drivers' hours without federal interference.
Congress was deadlocked over these regulations for nearly half the year (stalling the Department of Transportation’s 2014 budget). However, due to Republican coercion and the need for a 2015 budget, legislation on these regulations have finally passed, for better or for worse (depending on where you sit).
The Uneven Trade
The deadlock was finally broken on December 16, 2014, after Democrats gave into Republican demands for certain suspensions in the bill in order to pass a 2015 budget. Essentially, Republicans were refusing to pass a budget until their demands were met. In order for a budget to be passed, the Democrats conceded truck safety by upholding the Republicans’ amendments to the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (2015), which suspends certain HOS requirements.
So who really benefited from this “deal,” and who winds up suffering because of it?
- Republicans. Their party now has added support from the trucking companies and they were able to sneak in additional provisions to the bill to enhance their agenda.
- Trucking companies. Trucking companies can now force their drivers to work longer hours without a break, increasing their profit margin.
- Democrats. Congress was able to pass a 2015 budget, the federal government is no longer stalled, and some HOS regulations improved.
- Truck drivers. Truckers lose 12 hours a week in rest, as they can now be forced to work 82 hours per week as opposed to 70 hours. Rest periods are decreased and fatigue increases, so their chances of getting into accidents increase, as do their odds of suffering injury and death.
- The average motorist. As a motorist your safety has been exceptionally compromised. Every time you are driving near a truck, Congress’ arrangement potentially puts your family at risk for a tragic driver-fatigue accident.
Balancing the Scale
It’s obvious that the true winners of this legislation are the CEOs and owners of the trucking companies. They are now able to legally work their drivers to the point of exhaustion while putting them and you at risk, all for profit’s sake. However, if a fatigued trucker caused your accident, you can fight back.
We know how ruthless the trucking industry and insurance companies can be, especially now that Congress has given them the right to overwork their staff. However, even though they have the right to work their employees to exhaustion, they also must take responsibility for their drivers’ actions. Contact us today for a free consultation and see how our experience, knowledge and diligence can help you and your family without compromising anything.