Without a doubt, the trucking industry plays a very important role in the US economy, keeping businesses alive through delivery of tons of essential goods required by clients and demanded by consumers. Despite this major role, however, federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), know that big rigs or 18-wheelers are constant threats on the road for drivers of smaller vehicles, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. Being a road threat is not only due to the vehicle’s huge size and super-heavy weight, which can cause it to smash anything, or severely injure (or kill) anyone in its path, but primarily because of the negligence of many individuals in the trucking business (including truck and truck parts manufacturers, owners, dispatchers, drivers and mechanics) in ensuring that their vehicle will never cause any road tragedy. Some of the most common causes of road accidents involving trucks are improper loading of cargo, defective truck parts (especially parts of the braking system), worn out wheels, improperly maintained equipment, driving under the influence (DUI), hiring of drivers who lack the required skills, and driver fatigue, which is accountable for majority of all truck accidents in the US. The FMCSA, which is responsible in ensuring the compliance of truckers with federal rules, has these two standards, among others, to enforce:
- Licensing Requirements – Drivers must possess the minimum skills necessary to operate a big rig. This is derived from a mandate from the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, which also requires drivers to pass a test arranged by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and to have unsafe and unqualified drivers removed from the highway.
- Hours of service (HOS) – the most recent rule on this (which took effect on February 27, 2012) states that truck drivers can drive for 11 hours maximum (within a day); this shall be part of drivers’ 14-hour work day limit.
- Maximum average work week – this mandate took effect on July 1, 2013
- It limits truck drivers’ work week to 70 hours (instead of the previous 82 hours)
- Requires that drivers take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of their shift
- After rendering the maximum 70 hours or work within the week, drivers should be allowed to rest for 34 hours straight. This rest period should include two nights.
Failure to comply with the above federal mandates can easily lead to tragic accidents that can inflict severe personal injuries (injuries resulting from people’s negligence) to victims. Victims, on their part, ought to realize that seeking help from highly competent lawyers, such as an Oklahoma personal injury lawyer, can be an absolute necessity to enable them to receive the full amount of compensation (from the liable party) that the law permits.