Articles Posted in Safety Rules

I have written at length on this blog about just how dangerous tractor trailers are. Those dangers only get worse when truckers and trucking companies ignore the safety rules that protect us on the highways.

Now, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is taking steps on a program that would seriously erode our safety. Specifically, it appears that the DOT is about to open our border with Mexico, to allow Mexican tractor trailers to travel all over the interstates and secondary roads of the United States. Not only are there serious problems regarding Mexican drivers’ English language skills (which they need to read traffic signs), but Mexican drivers currently aren’t forced to meet federal safety rules.

Mexican tractor trailers could begin pouring across the border as soon as September 6, 2007.

But, you can help make sure this doesn’t happen. I urge you to contact both of your state’s U.S. Senators, and ask them to prohibit the DOT from pushing forward on allowing trucks from Mexico to travel throughout the United States. This needs to be included in the Senate’s DOT spending bill.

That is the only real way to stop the DOT’s plan for unlimited Mexican tractor trailer traffic from moving forward.

To get both of your U.S. Senators’ contact information, just go to, and you will find a place to enter your zip code.

Why the alarm? Here’s why:

Mexican truck drivers have very high out of service rates.

Mexican truck drivers on U.S. highways often operate without a drivers license.

Mexican truck drivers in the U.S. often don’t have the right driver’s license for their truck.

Mexican truck drivers routinely don’t comply with U.S. safety rules involving hours of service logbooks and records of duty status.

Mexican trucks in the U.S. have high rates of poor brakes and lights.

Mexico does not require workplace drug and alcohol testing of truck drivers like the U.S. does.

Mexico has no enforced Hours Of Service requirements. Mexican drivers can drive for an unlimited number of hours while in Mexico. They can then drive across the border highly fatigued (which is extremely dangerous) and then keep driving for an additional 11 hours in the U.S. What’s worse, there is nothing that our enforcement people can do about it! U.S. officials can’t penalize a driver for actions that occurred in Mexico.

And, the list goes on. Take a few minutes today to help prevent this ridiculous practice from going forward.

The next time you see a tractor trailer almost, but not quite, cause an automobile accident, don’t think that there is nothing you can do. The fact is, there is something you can do.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (a part of the United States Department of Transportation) compiles reports from the public about safety violations involving both tractor trailers which travel across state lines, and also those that transport hazardous materials. You can make your confidential report online.

To file a complaint over the phone, call 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238) Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 9 PM Eastern Standard Time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration follows a strict privacy policy, which is required by law, of not disclosing your identity.

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To avoid truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) public education campaign, called “Share the Road,” has issued some safety tips for tractor trailer drivers, bus drivers, and commercial vehicle drivers. See below:

The most important part of a truck or bus is the driver! You should get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel. Eat well and also stay fit. Remember, hours of service violations are serious and can threaten your livelihood. They can even threaten your life. You should stay healthy and well rested, or don’t drive!

You should inspect your vehicle before each trip and check your brakes regularly. Also, learn how to inspect your brakes, identify safety defects, and get them repaired before risking your life and others on the highway.

Other drivers often are not aware of the size of your truck’s blind spots. You should be vigilant in watching out for vehicles in the No-Zone. The so-called “No-Zone” is the danger areas, or blind spots, around trucks and buses where crashes are more likely to occur. Approximately one-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars take place in the No-Zone.

You should watch out for highway construction, and stay alert. Remember, work zone crashes are more likely to happen during the day. About a third of fatal crashes in work zones involved large trucks. You should take your time going through work zones and give yourself plenty of room. Also, expect the unexpected!

You must always leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Remember, if you hit someone from behind, you are typically considered “at fault,” regardless of the situation. Also, large trucks require more stopping distances than other vehicles. Remember to take advantage of your driving height, and anticipate braking situations.

Remember to buckle up for safety and control. If you are in a wreck, a seat belt can save your life and those around you. The seat belt will keep you in your seat and allow you to maintain control of your truck or bus. One major cause of truck and bus driver fatalities involves being ejected from the vehicle. Wearing seat belts is still the single most effective way drivers can save lives and reduce injures on our roadways.

Always avoid aggressive drivers! An estimated two-thirds of all traffic fatalities are caused every year by aggressive driving behaviors. Remember to keep your distance and maintain a safe speed. Speed will do nothing but increase your chance for a crash.

Always be the professional on the highway and at safety events! Remember to help stranded motorists; notify traffic safety agencies of crashes, unsafe drivers, unsafe roadway conditions, and other situations that can lead to crashes. Consider joining a “Highway Watch” program, if available in your state. A driver’s participation in public safety events and performance on the highway can change public perception!

If you know of unsafe situations, please tell us about it. Remember to report unsafe companies, unsafe drivers, unsafe roadways, and unsafe vehicles. The following telephone “hotlines” are maintained for your protection. Please feel free to call us to help make the roads safer and your job easier.

FMCSA Driver Hotline: 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238)
NHTSA Vehicle Hotline: 1-888-327-4236

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Trucking companies, or motor carriers, are legally responsible (vicariously liable) for the acts and negligence of their drivers. In addition, the trucking company may be responsible itself (independently liable) for its own behavior, when an 18-wheeler wreck causes injury or a wrongful death. This is particularly true when it comes to negligently hiring, training, or monitoring the company’s truckers. The trucking company must ensure that the truck drivers comply with all the safety rules set forth in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Virtually all interstate trucking companies must carry at least $750,000.00 worth of insurance coverage. Many of these companies are required to carry more coverage still. It is not uncommon for a carrier to be required to carry at least $1,000,000.00 in coverage. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lists the insurance requirements, and the insurance coverage confirmation filed by each company under its aegis.

As I was writing this blog entry, I did a random check of several trucking companies based in South Carolina. Here is what I found:

Company “A” is required to have $750,000 in coverage. No insurance coverage is on file.
Company “B” is required to have $750,000 in coverage. No insurance coverage is on file.
Company “C” is required to have $750,000 in coverage. $1 million in coverage is on file.
Company “D” is required to have $750,000 in coverage. $1 million in coverage is on file.
Company “E” is required to have $5 million in coverage. $1 million in coverage is on file.
Company “F” is required to have $750,000 in coverage. No insurance coverage is on file.
Company “G” is required to have $1 million in coverage. $1 million in coverage is on file.
Company “H” is required to have $1.5 million in coverage. No insurance coverage is on file.
Company “I” is not subject to the coverage requirements. No insurance coverage is on file.
Company “J” is required to have $750,000 in coverage. $1 million in coverage is on file.

In other words, just 5 out of the 10 I looked at were complying with the insurance coverage requirements. Let’s hope they are at least following the other safety rules.

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There was a really interesting article in the New York Times in December which discusses changes which could have an effect on the numbers of truck accidents on the roads. You see, the current administration in Washington has rejected tighter regulation of the trucking industry. In fact, the Department of Transportation has boldly deregulated the trucking industry over the past six years. The trucking industry got what they wanted – again. For years, there have been calls for stricter regulations to restrict drivers’ hours on the road. Instead, the Department of Transportation did just the opposite. They relaxed the rules, allowing truckers to drive even longer hours.

Safety groups and insurance interests had also tried to get new training requirements for truck drivers. The D.O.T.’s answer? Not on your life. (Actually, it is literally on all of our lives).

The article highlights the story of Dorris Edwards, a 62 year-old Missouri woman who was killed by the rookie driver of an 18-wheeler. The driver was on his first cross-country trip. His instructor (a 22 year old with one year of experience was in the truck with him – asleep for most of the ride. The new D.O.T. rules allowed the truck driver to drive for 12 hours the day of the wreck – 8 of them nonstop. The driver later said he was tired. I bet he was!

Of course, federal officials dismiss the idea that deregulation reduces safety. They say it helps.

The traveling public doesn’t need that kind of “help.”

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Speed kills. Speed really kills when you are talking about an 18-wheeler.

The United States Department of Transportation is considering a rule to limit the top speed of medium and large commercial trucks. The proposal would require installation of electronic speed governors on trucks manufactured after 1990 and weighing more than 13 tons. The top speed allowed would be 68 miles per hour. This equipment is already in place for trucks model year 1991, and newer. D.O.T. will accept comments from the public about the proposal until March 27. Some of the big trucking companies are on board, as are safety groups, so hopefully, this proposal will end up as a regulation soon.

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Here is a brief summary of some of the major laws that have been enacted to govern truck safety in this country. In effect, our country has a national policy recognizing the threats posed by big trucks, and there is much that has been done to prevent truck accidents. However, there is much more to be done. That is why it is so important to hold accountable unsafe trucking companies and truck drivers who do not handle themselves as professional drivers.

In 1937, the hours-of-service rules were issued by Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). At the time, some of the ICC Commissioners expressed misgivings that the rules might not be conducive to safety.

In 1938, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act exempted the trucking industry from overtime compensation, and it created incentives to drive long hours putting drivers and the public at risk. In fact, no regulated job classification allows for more work hours than truck and bus drivers.

In 1984, the Motor Carrier Safety Act required that U.S. Department of Transportation standards have to ensure that trucks and buses are operated safely; that driver responsibilities don’t impair their ability to safely drive; that the physical condition of drivers is good enough to safely drive; that driving trucks does not have a negative effect on the physical condition of drivers.

In 1995, the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act directed the FHWA (which later evolved into the FMCSA) to deal with fatigue-related issues in the commercial motor vehicle industry; pointed out the glaring need to address amount of sleep after driving time, loading/unloading, automated recording devices, rest/recovery cycles, fatigue and stress in longer combination vehicles, fitness for duty, and other measures to reduce fatigue-related crashes and increase driver alertness.

In 1999, the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act created a new safety agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to improve commercial motor vehicle safety, and to establish safety as the highest priority of new agency.

In 2004, Congress temporarily extended surface transportation legislation.

In the same year, a United States Court of Appeals decision found the FMCSA HOS final rule of April, 2003, to be in violation of the law. In response, Congress responded by allowing the FMCSA to continue to enforce final rule until completion of the new rulemaking.

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