On our blog, we closely follow the trucking industry and various legislative efforts that impact public safety. Often, these legislative efforts – whether they involve new proposed regulations, blocking of proposed laws that pose threats to trucking companies and their profits, or rollbacks of pre-existing rules and regulations – are motivated more by profits than concern for safety. For example, we’ve discussed laws and regulatory rollbacks involving:
- The trucking industry’s opposition to electronic logging devices (ELDs).
- Legislative efforts to increase weight limits for commercial trucks.
- The federal government’s announcement to no longer pursue regulations for truckers with sleep apnea.
While there are many efforts that actually seek to strengthen trucking regulations, there are still always initiatives designed to benefit the industry rather than the people with whom their trucks share the road. This is true of a recently proposed bill which would revise current trucking regulations in order to make them more flexible for truckers hauling livestock.
Senate Bills Calls for Lax Livestock Transportation Rules
The “Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act” introduced in the U.S. Senate last month calls for a number of steps to reevaluate trucking regulations and make it easier for truckers who transport livestock, insects, and other perishable agricultural commodities. The bill calls for a few things:
- The creation of a new Department of Transportation “working” group to evaluate current trucking regulations that impact livestock and agricultural transportation.
- Evaluation of current Hours of Service rules that limit interstate commercial drivers to 11 hours of behind-the-wheel driving, 14 consecutive hours on duty in a 24-hour period, and mandatory 10-hour rest break before they are able to drive again.
- Examination of rules requiring truckers to record their hours driving and on duty using electronic logging devices (ELDs).
- Proposed recommendations within a year of creating the working court to propose any changes to current laws regarding the transportation of livestock.
On its face, the bill may appear like a reasonable move for evaluating current regulations and implementing any needed changes that may hinder trucking companies that transport livestock and other commodities. In fact, many associations and within those industries state that it would allow the Department of Transportation to ensure Hours of Service rules better fit the “realities of transporting animals in a common sense matter.”
However, many safety advocates argue that the true goals behind the legislation would be to make it easier for companies in the trucking and livestock industries to transport their products as quickly as possible – even if it could potentially lead to increased risks of tired truckers and trucking accidents. This would include possible suggestions to suspend electronic logging device requirements for trucks transporting those commodities.
Safety in Commercial Trucking
If there’s one important message about many of the trucking-related legislative issues we cover, it is that they often highlight how the industry prioritizes profits, even when it comes at the expense of public safety, and how they leverage their money, resources, and connections to lobby politicians to support initiatives that benefit them.
Although this is an unfortunate fact found in many industries where corporate powers pull strings, there are still many advocates who do support measures that promote safety and aim for greater accountability. This is true of the recent proposed bill supporting side underride guards on commercial trucks, which can prevent serious injuries in accidents where passenger vehicles slide underneath tractor-trailers.
Even as the trucking industry continues to battle federal regulators and safety advocates who want better protections for the public, trucking companies still have obligations when it comes to obeying current rules and safely operating their rigs. When they fail to do so and victims suffer harm in preventable truck accidents, they can be held liable for damages.
If you have questions about a tractor-trailer accident and how our Washington, DC truck accident attorneys may be able help, please contact us for a free consultation. We handle personal injury cases throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.