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As our regular readers know, trucking accidents are serious matters, often causing serious personal injuries and deaths due to the weight and speed of the vehicles involved. In recent years, truck driver fatigue has been in the spotlight as a major cause of accidents that could have been prevented. Due to tight deadlines and rigorous work schedules imposed by trucking companies, drivers are often forced to drive for too many hours straight, which can cause them to fall asleep behind the wheel. It is difficult for the trucking industry to regulate itself because the industry’s interests lie with both the truckers, who are often pushed to their physical limits to complete jobs, and the companies, who focus on profit, so it is important that lawmakers take a tough stance on such negligence to improve the safety of our roads.

In recent good news reported by Trucking News Online, the American Trucking Association told Congress’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee that safety investments are working. They relayed that they are proud of the difference that $7 billion in safety-related investments have made in reducing crashes and fatalities on the nation’s highways in the trucking industry. After the safety investments, large truck-related fatalities have dropped 21 percent and the large truck fatality rate has dropped 37 percent. Industry leaders have cited voluntary measures like crash prevention technology and lane departure devices as reasons for the decline.

According to the same article, these industry leaders have also called on the federal government to continue to focus on truck accidents to maintain the safety and continue to grow it. Among their proposals is to advance a rule requiring the use of speed limiters on large trucks. Additionally, they argue that focusing on on-road traffic enforcement and driver behavior will be effective. They also ask for timely publication of a strong and appropriate mandate for electronic logging devices and to monitor studies surrounding hours-of-service rules.
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It is known that the railroad and trucking industries come with many inherent dangers, but that such dangers can be mitigated and prevented through proper attention to and dedication to safety. Where federal regulations are in place that companies and operators must abide by, accidents and dangers can be prevented.

In a recent article by Government Security News Magazine, the National Transit Safety Board has recognized common dangers that have been increasingly present in rail tank cars and commercial trucking accidents. That is why these issues have been included in the Board’s focus for the remainder of 2015. They have identified areas for needed safety improvements, including requiring that transportation operators be medically fit for duty, strengthening commercial trucking safety, and requiring pilots to strengthen procedural compliance. Among such issues are distraction and impairment. The article relays that in 20102 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration every 1 in 10 drivers in fatal crashes was distracted. In almost a third of fatal crashes, a driver was under the influence of alcohol and impaired.

Our lawyers understand that truck accidents are unfortunately all too common. Illinois is a major hub for trucking and train transportation so these announcements are relevant to us. With its central location and large metropolitan area, there are many trucks going on routes in and out of the Chicago area as part of the interstate commerce that goes on throughout the country. With a high frequency of truck stops, truck accidents are also in high frequency, especially when drivers are negligent and do not act with the care and diligence required in long routes. Crashes can commonly involve distracted drivers, intoxicated drivers, sleep-deprived drivers, overloaded or unsafe trucks, hit-and-runs, rear-end collisions, and rollovers.
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Our attorneys have emphasized many times not only how dangerous truck accidents are, but also the high costs of these accidents that burden innocent injured victims and families. After a collision, many times victims are drowning with costs of initial medical bills for hospitalization, vehicle repair, prolonged medical treatment and physical therapy for healing, and lost wages for inability to work. Now, proposed federal legislation may make the costs and recovery of a truck accident even harder to bear for innocent victims by placing the high costs on their shoulders.

According to news from the American Association of Justice through their Take Justice Back campaign, U.S. Senators have proposed legislation that would eliminate accountability for trucks and buses when victims are injured or killed. Currently there is law on the books from the 1980’s that only requires truck companies to hold minimum insurance policies for $750,000 to cover an entire crash. This is the same cost no matter how many people are injured or killed in the crash. When there is a higher cost than what the company can cover, the motorists and taxpayers have to pay the rest. Even though policies may be for $750,000, what many do not realize is that fatal trucking accidents often cost over $4.3 million.

Furthermore, nearly 4,000 people die every year in truck crashes. Yet, next week the U.S. Senate vote on a transportation spending bill that may include an amendment that will delete the necessary resources that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration needs to increase insurance minimums to cover the costs of crashes.

Illinoisans could particularly suffer from such legislation. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, as of today, there have been 335 fatal crashes in our state in 2014. Of these crashes, 361 people have died. From this data, it is clear that fatal accidents are frequently occurring on our state’s roads, streets and highways And therefore, it is important that lawmakers protect the victims of negligence.
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In the recent news of past months, we have reported on numerous fatal truck accidents. Many of these have occurred as a result of negligence in the forms of distracted driving, fatigue, excessive speeding, or a combination of these factors. Now, federal lawmakers may be taking a step to physically prevent truck drivers from speeding.

According to an article by the Claims Journal, the Department of Transportation is attempting to mandate that truck drivers have speed limiters installed in their the vehicles. The propose mandate would require that certain trucks on U.S. interstates have speed limiters known as Electronic Control Modules (or ECMs). This rule would apply to trucks that are over 26,000 pounds and traveling on roads with a speed limit of at least 55 mph. The Department of Transportation hopes for this to go into effect in October.

Proponents of this law claim that the speed limiters would eliminate 1,115 fatal crashes. The American Trucking Association is behind the law, asking for limiters on all new trucks. Road Safe America has also proposed a retrofitting these devices for all trucks made since 1990.
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Because most individuals are aware of the severity of drinking and driving and how dangerous it can be for anyone on the roadway, we often hear of the use of “designated drivers” as a way for a group of people consume alcohol and get taken home safely by one person who agrees not to drink. For teenagers and adults, this is thought to greatly reduce the threats of injuries and accidents caused by drunken driving. But according to Npr.org, many designated drivers may be drinking, too.

Researchers are reported to have conducted a test in which they gave breath tests to over one thousand young adults around thirty years old that were leaving an out-of-state bar on a Saturday night. Surprisingly, they found that 41% of the 165 designated drivers had been drinking, while almost 20% had been drinking enough to be considered impaired. This seems to stem from the fact that many U.S. drivers think that it is acceptable for a designated driver to drink as long as his or her blood alcohol level is below the legal limit.

From the perspective of our personal injury lawyers, a problem is that it is difficult for anyone gauge their blood alcohol content while they are drinking. When drivers’ driving skills are tested in laboratories, some studies have found that driving skills became impaired with a blood alcohol level of 0.02% and that it is difficult for almost everyone to drive well at a level of 0.05%. Both of these levels are much lower than the 0.08% that remains to be the current legal limit across the country. The report states that after these studies were released in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the National Transportation Safety Board called for lowering the blood alcohol limit to 0.05%.

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Memorial Day weekend is just one weekend in May that makes many people feel like summer is just around the corner. There is unfortunately a correlation between the anticipation of the seasonal change and motorists and passengers wearing seatbelts less while traveling. Our accident attorneys learned that due to increased travel during the holiday weekend over the last few years, an average of 12.2 percent more traffic fatalities generally occurred than during comparable non-holiday time frames. Additionally, about 39,500 more injuries resulted from motor vehicle accidents. These injuries and fatalities were often due to drivers and passengers not wearing their seatbelts.

Thankfully, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s “Click it or Ticket” annual campaign was created a few years ago in order to increase seatbelt usage throughout the country. Because of the above statistics and injury rates, the most campaigning is usually completed before and on Memorial Day weekend. During this time, state and local law enforcement agencies crack down on motorists who are not wearing seatbelts. Chicago.cbslocal.com released that over the recent holiday weekend, the campaign saved an estimated 330 people. NHTSA states that the safety belt enforcement campaign was responsible for successfully contributing to the highest national safety belt usage rate of 85 percent.

Thirty-three states, including Illinois, have principal seat belt laws that allow police officers to ticket motorists or passengers for not wearing seat belts. In addition, sixteen states have secondary laws that allow officers to issue tickets to unbelted motorists or passengers only when there is a “citable traffic violation” at play. (Freep.com). Among primary law states, Illinois issued the most citations last year, a massive 74,364 as compared to Arkansas, for example, which had the lowest at 435. These numbers are presented as seen on NHTSA’s most recent “Click It or Ticket Evaluation Report.”

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TheTrucker.com reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently conducted a drug and alcohol strike force sweep of hundreds of commercial bus and truck drivers. Our Illinois truck accident attorneys learned that the sweep, which ran from April 30 through May 11, ultimately removed more than 287 commercial bus and truck drivers from the roadways and made more than 128 transportation companies liable to enforcement actions.

Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that during the sweep, which lasted roughly over two weeks, over 200 federal investigators from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reviewed the drug and alcohol safety records of commercial drivers employed by a variety of companies – particularly bus and trucking companies. This included: school bus drivers, interstate passenger carriers, hazardous material transporters, as well as, general freight long-haul trucking companies.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ultimate goal was to identify motor carriers who were in violation of federal drug and alcohol testing requirements and to subsequently remove the violators from the roadway. In a statement released by the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it was revealed that “removing these dangerous drivers from the road helps save lives and sends a strong signal that we will not tolerate negligent commercial drivers and companies that violate federal alcohol and drug safety standards.”

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TruckingInfo.com reports that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear consolidated lawsuits that have been brought about by several agencies over the proposed revision of the hours-of-service rule. According to a schedule posted last week by the appeals court, the battle over the hours-of-service rule will begin in July. The consolidated lawsuits include trucking groups who believe the new rule is too restrictive, as well as, several safety advocacy groups believe that the rule is too liberal.

A Chicago truck accident lawyer at our firm learned that briefs for the case are due on July 24 while reply briefs for the case are due October 24 – with final briefs due November 21. As of press time, the date of oral arguments has not been set. One of the sides arguing against the hours-of-service change, the American Trucking Associations, argues that the new rule is arbitrary and capricious – and that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration overstated the safety benefits of the rule and in actuality, the costs outweigh the alleged benefits.

Additionally, the American Trucking Associations object to the restart provision found within the new rule that requires two rest breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. with 34 hours and limits the use of the restart to once every 168 hours. The ATA also objects to the 30-minute rest-break requirement. Subsequent supports of the ATA include Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, as well as, the Truckload Carriers Association.

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TruckingInfo.com recently released a news report detailing a new rule geared towards trucking carriers that has been implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration posted their final rule that changes its procedures in several areas affecting truck lines, intermodal equipment providers, brokers, freight forwards, in addition to, hazmat proceedings.

One of the most significant changes implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the requirement that even in the event that a trucking carrier pays a full civil penalty in enforcement proceeding does not give them the ability to unilaterally avoid an admission of liability. Our Chicago truck accident lawyers learned that such a payment constitutes admission of all the facts in a Notice of Claim, unless the trucking carrier and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration agree otherwise.

It is also reported that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will also review out-of-service orders before they go into effect on reincarnated operations that have a history of breaking the rules. Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will consolidate the records of reincarnated entities with their predecessors’ records. The agency’s decision was ultimately turned on its contention that businesses with a lot of financial resources could afford to repeatedly violate the rules by simply paying the fines.

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Earlier this week, a Chicago truck accident attorney at our office read a news report detailing new sleep apnea guidelines that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is looking to implement into the trucking industry. TheTrucker.com reports that the recommendations were provided by two medical advisory bodies in February on the topic of obstructed sleep apnea in truck drivers.

The recommendations list a body mass index or BMI of 35 or great and an Apnea Hypopnea Index or AHI of 20 or more (moderate to severe sleep apnea) as being triggers for testing and treatment. Under the recommendations, treatment would consist of using a Positive Airway Pressure or a PAP machine. Our Chicago truck accident lawyer learned that the use of dental appliances to treat sleep apnea were “not approved alternatives at this time” by the medical advisory boards.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently revealed in a notice published in the Federal Register this is “proposes to adopt the recommendations as regulatory guidance after reviewing and evaluating comments received by the public.” It is reported that public comments must be received on or before 30 days from April 19, 2012.