Is Long-Awaited, Much Debated Hours-Of-Service Reform In Jeopardy?
Little Rock, Arkansas – New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) along with recent high-profile fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers are bringing new scrutiny on trucking’s proposed hours-of-service (HOS) reform efforts. As truckers made their case to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for greater flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations, which Transportation Nation Network has also called for (read our opinion editorial HERE), others are increasingly voicing concern that truckers are already permitted to drive too many hours in a 24-hour period.
New Data Is Not Helping
The NHTSA released new data this month and it wasn’t good news for trucking. Fatalities from large truck accidents reached a 29-year high in 2017. 37,133 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 which was a 2% decline from the prior year. However, large truck fatalities rose an alarming 9% to 4,761, an increase of 392 lives lost from 2016. Trucker deaths accounted for almost 1,300 of those.
The biggest increase in fatalities occurred in trucks weighing 10,000 to 14,000 pounds, including dual rear-wheel pickup trucks. However, tractor-trailer related fatalities rose 5.8% too. No one could possibly argue this is a positive development in the fight to achieve more flexible HOS regulations. Why? It simply adds fuel to the the fire of those demanding more regulations on trucking and truck drivers.
Recent High Profile Fatal Accidents Involving Semis Adding Fuel To Critics’ Fire Also
A couple of recent horrific tractor-trailer related crashes are alarming safety advocates even further. The most notable of the two crashes occurred just last Friday night along Interstate 83 in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Truck driver, Jack E. Satterfield III, 29, from McComb, Mississippi, had been drinking and was driving on a suspended license before he plowed into the back of numerous passenger vehicles killing 3 people including an 18-month old toddler. He is facing a host of serious charges.
Then in another incident, a Hanover County, Virginia, firefighter, Lt. Brad Clark, lost his life after a trucker slammed into a parked fire truck along southbound I-295. The fire truck had its lights engaged as the firefighters were working to assist motorists in the aftermath of a 2-vehicle fatal accident. The truck driver, 49-year-old Lester Labarge, of California, Maryland, was charged with Reckless Driving, Failure To Maintain Control and was also cited for having a defective brake issue.
Transportation Nation Network has brought you full reports on these accidents to the displeasure of some who would rather pretend bad things don’t happen. Frankly, the establishment trucking media organizations often don’t report on these types of accidents preferring to ignore them also. It’s almost as if they take the approach that if they don’t report on them, they didn’t happen. However, we will always keep you informed because the first step in understanding the issues is being adequately informed on them.
READ Transportation Nation Network’s opinion-editorial explaining why we believe “Trucker’s Deserve Better” and more flexible HOS rules.
Will Any Or All Of This Stop HOS Reform?
This, of course, is the million dollar question. FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez has been clear about his desire to see a modernization of the HOS rules be implemented sooner rather than later. At a recent listening session he said, “It’s not going to take that long. It’s not going to take 4 years. It’s not going to take 3 years. It’s not going to take 2 years. We are doing this on an aggressive time frame.”
If you’ve read this far you are probably already well-read on this issue and you know that many elements make up the complexity of why fatalities involving large truck crashes is on the rise. Are some truckers racing the clock like never before because of the implementation of the ELD mandate? Yes. Is distracted driving on the rise among the general motoring public and could this be contributing? Absolutely! Are training standards for new drivers not what they should be? Uh huh. Is the rise in freight demand at a time capacity is tight causing trucking companies to hire drivers they perhaps would not have considered a few years ago? Certainly. Do we have a record 222-million licensed U.S. drivers and are Americans driving more miles than ever? You bet. Do truckers who make bad decisions behind-the-wheel negatively impact the perception of truckers? Unfortunately so. Still, are truckers actually only at-fault in fewer than 1 in 5 accidents? Yep.
Let’s take a deep breath and have some faith in FMCSA Administrator Martinez and his team. He and his team also understand each of these realities. The comment period provided him with more than enough feedback to make up the basis and rationale from which to construct a plan of reasonable reforms.