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NEW COMMERCIAL TRUCKING RULES MAY MAKE AMERICAN ROADS SAFER

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, announced at the end of August that it will implement several provisions of its ambitious strategic plan, Moving Ahead for Progress in 21st Century, or MAP-21. The FMCSA's goal is to develop 29 new rules in the next 27 months. These rules will likely improve safety for all road users over the next few years.

Rule Changes to Take Place by October 2012

In an aggressive move, by this October, the FMCSA will change its rules on how it reprimands motor carriers that are found to be immediately dangerous to other drivers and a significant risk for truck accidents. Currently, the agency can immediately shut down a company whose fleet is an imminent hazard to road safety. A carrier may be labeled an "imminent hazard" if it fails to take required safety precautions and creates conditions that may cause imminent death, serious injury or property or environmental damage before a formal proceeding can be completed.

For example, this February the FMSCA declared an Indiana trucking company an imminent hazard because it was violating commercial driver's license and English proficiency rules. The company allowed its drivers to work without a valid commercial license and did not require drivers to be proficient enough in English to use the roads safely. The company was shut down immediately to get these dangerous drivers off the roads.

FMCSA's 2013 Goals

The FMCSA also has several rulemaking goals for next year to improve road safety. First, it will establish a national registry for rental truck accidents and for the permitting of carriers that haul hazardous materials. It would also like to implement new rules for entry-level commercial drivers.

Additionally, the FMCSA aims to reduce commercial truck accidents by adjusting the hour restart rule in its hours-of-service regulations to 34 hours. It will also start requiring drivers to log their hours electronically, which will leave little room for drivers to cook their books or keep two logs: one to show law enforcement and another to show their employers so they are compensated appropriately.

The agency will also require states to develop systems that automatically notify carriers when their drivers receive a moving violation or license suspension. This move will help ensure that unsafe drivers are kept off the roads.

FMCSA's 2014 Goals

The agency has yet more ambitions for 2014. In two years, it aims to improve road safety by implementing a written proficiency exam with a section on safety for people applying for operating authority. It will also establish a national database of driver drug and alcohol test results. Lastly, it will conduct a study on whether or not raising truck weight limits for the nation's highways would affect safety, costs and the use of freight railways.

All of these changes should improve road safety and reduce accidents involving commercial trucks. However, no amount of safety rules can account for human error and road conditions that cause accidents. If you or a loved one has been in an accident caused by a commercial truck, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to explore your options.

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