AIA: Court Ruling Offers Chance to Fix Flawed Truck Driving Rules

July 22, 2004

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling recently offers the federal government a chance to fix flawed rules that let truck drivers stay on the road for too long at one stretch, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

“Today’s ruling is a tentative victory for public safety,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “Now the government can – and should – go back and make some important, reasonable changes that will be good for truckers and everyone else on the highways.”

The appellate court vacated rules issued last year by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that, among other things, would let truckers drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. AIA filed comments with the FMCSA strongly recommending against certain aspects of the rule, including this one.

Numerous studies have reportedly shown that fatigue is a factor in the majority of truck crashes.

Each year, such crashes claim nearly 5,000 lives, injure hundreds of thousands of people, and cost billions of dollars for medical care, property damage and lost productivity. Also, these crashes most often injure or kill the occupants of the other vehicles involved – not the truck – and when hazardous materials are involved, such crashes can constitute a large-scale disaster.

When FMCSA issued the new rules last April, AIA noted with disappointment that they did not require an effective enforcement mechanism, such as use of onboard computers to monitor compliance with the new rules. Current paper logbooks used by truckers are often referred to as “comic books” because they are reportedly so widely ignored or flouted. The court ruling also took the FMCSA to task for not mandating or studying these devices.

For years, individual insurance companies, AIA and other safety experts, such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have formally and repeatedly petitioned regulators to require onboard data recorders to make sure that whatever rules are on the books actually are enforced.

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