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New Highway Bill Passes Congress: Trucking Safety Regulations Are a Concern

The first major highway bill in years was passed by Congress recently, allocating $325 billion in funds on transportation projects spanning the next six years. During the process, the trucking industry pushed for the relaxation of a number of safety regulations. Following nationwide trends, fatalities and injuries in truck-related accidents have been on the rise in Georgia for the past four years, despite annual deaths in all other types of vehicle crashes declining.

Although an amendment allowing for larger rigs on the road was eventually rejected, safety advocates say the overall bill was a lost opportunity for tightening up safety standards. Could the legislation lead to even more injuries in truck accidents?

Congress Rejects Amendment Allowing Heavier Trucks

Despite considerable pushback from the trucking industry, at least one victory regarding truck safety regulations was upheld. Congress rejected an amendment to the bill that would have increased the current 80,000 pound limit of cargo trucks to 91,000 pounds.

The trucking industry has sought such an increase for years and proponents tried to attach the amendment to the bill, hoping to put an end to the long, bitter fight. On a vote in the house floor, however, the proposal was rejected 187-236.

Under the proposal it would have been up to each state to decide whether or not they would permit heavier trucks, but lawmakers in both parties were skeptical how safe heavier trucks could actually be.

Trucking companies argued that the increase in weight limit would allow for increases in the amount of cargo without needing to increase driver work hours. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), however, expressed the concern of many when he stated that he did not want to put moms, dads, and kids driving next to “humongously long trucks” at risk on his highways.

Lost Opportunity for Safety Advances

While the rejection of the weight limit increase was a victory, many safety advocates believe lawmakers dropped the ball in other areas. The highway bill contained a number of other trucking-related provisions, including:

  • Reforms to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its CSA program;
  • Allowing graduated licensing for commercial drivers under the age of 21;
  • A dedicated freight fund to deal with congestion bottlenecks;
  • Hair testing standards for truck driver drug screens; and
  • Precedence for federal driver hours of service requirements over state labor rules.

Safety advocates maintain that removing mandatory rest breaks for truckers in certain states, lowering safety ratings from the Internet, and allowing truck drivers younger than 21 could be highly detrimental. The trucking industry, however, is adamant about allowing younger drivers in to deal with a shortage of employees.

Seeking Aid After a Truck Accident

Trucking accidents will continue to happen and if you are a victim in the accident, you need to know your rights. If you are a Florida or Georgia resident injured in a truck accident, consulting with an experienced truck accident lawyer can help you find out exactly what your legal options are. Call toll-free 888-366-5904 to speak with a truck accident attorney at Gillette Law, P.A. for a free consultation. Our offices are located in Jacksonville, FL and Brunswick, GA.

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