A Wish List for Reducing Commercial Trucking Accidents in Georgia

Hospital MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, was signed in July by President Obama and authorizes $105 billion in transportation improvements for the 2013-14 fiscal year. It is the first long-term highway authorization since 2005.

We reported recently on our Georgia Truck Accident Lawyer Blog about some of the safety improvements likely to lead to a reduction in serious and fatal tractor-trailer accidents in Atlanta and elsewhere. Safety initiatives in the bill include electronic logging of drive time, a review of minimum insurance levels, improved driver’s education requirements, and creation of databases for drug testing results and approved certified medical examiners.

“In the trucking industry itself, the mandate for electronic logging of drive time for commercial trucks and the updating of minimal financial requirements for truck companies are huge steps toward safer highways,” said Steve Owings, co-founder of RoadSafe America. “These rules, along with the new drug and alcohol database, will go a long way towards reducing truck/car fatalities in America.”

The organization celebrated the victory with nearly 200 donors last month. The event was held at Atlanta’s Piedmont Driving Club.

Still, there is much work that remains. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports more than 3,600 motorists a year are killed in accidents with commercial trucks. Another 80,000 are injured. While this year’s transportation bill makes several steps in the right direction, it hardly fulfills the wish list of safety advocates.

  • Sleep disorder screening: We’ve reported here about the risks of sleep apnea and other impacts of sleep abnormalities on a driver’s safety behind the wheel. However, the federal government has yet to tackle the issue in any real, meaningful way.
  • Hair Follicle Testing: Could make it much harder for truckers to beat drug screenings, which right now are not difficult to falsify, according to a review by the Government Accountability Office.
  • Prescribed Narcotics: Stop permitting commercial drivers to obtain exemptions for powerful narcotics.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control: Should be required of all trucks and would automatically slow a tractor-trailer as it approaches slower traffic.
  • Shipper & Receiver Liability: The owners of the freight must ultimately share in the responsibility in order to better improve safety industry wide.
  • Safe Pay: Paying truckers by the mile continues to cause a safety disconnect, thereby encouraging truckers to disobey the rules in an effort to make time. Paying by the hour would improve safety and reduce pressure on drivers.
  • Collision Avoidance: Not nearly enough emphasis is being put on incorporating the next-generation of safety technologies into these large commercial vehicles with which the rest of us are forced to share the road.

Each of these improvements represents a chance to save lives. The nation’s roads are only expected to get busier in the coming years. In the past decade, the number of registered commercial trucks on the nation’s roads has increased from about 7 million to nearly 11 million. Presently, there is a shortage of about 25,000 truckers, according to the American Trucker’s Association, and that number is expected to continue to grow as demand once again doubles the number of tractor-trailers on our nation’s roads.

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