Proposed Legislation Hopes to Crack Down on Unsafe Truck Drivers, Reduce Auto Accidents

A new piece of legislation may soon give the federal government more power to rid the nation’s roadways of unsafe truck drivers and fly-by-night freight companies.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.-a long-time advocate of improving transportation safety-is the author of a new federal bill that would arm the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with tools to better identify and penalize unsafe drivers.

More Trucker Training

The legislation includes several different safety improvements. Specifically, the law would require more training during the permit stage for novice truckers as well as improvements to how companies demonstrate their drivers understand the rules of the road .

Mandatory Electronic On-Board Recorders

The bill would also require all trucks to be equipped with electronic on-board recorders, or EOBRs, which would record total mileage and time each trucker spends driving. The requirement has the potential to make truckers more accountable for meeting FMCSA’s hours-of-service standards. Current law requires truckers to cap daily driving time at 11 consecutive hours.

New Penalties for Fly-By-Night Trucking Companies

Finally, the bill would give government agencies more resources to identify and penalize fly-by-night trucking companies that practice unsafe driving habits, rack up a sizable amount of safety violations then close and reopen under a new company name. Such practices pose threats to the safety of the nation’s roadways, and Lautenberg’s bill would help FMCSA remove these unsafe drivers from our highways.

Trucking accidents cost the nation $48 billion in 2009, which was down from $60 billion in 2008, but still enough to necessitate safety improvements. In 2009, there were 286,000 incidents involving large trucks, 2,987 of which were fatal. Researchers believe that just 10 percent of truck drivers are responsible for 40 percent of truck accidents. Some, including South Chicago motor vehicle accident attorneys, say that Lautenberg’s bill would help weed