Articles Posted in Legislation-National News

TruckingInfo.com recently released a news report detailing a new rule that has been proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that would require individuals who perform medical exams on large commercial vehicle drivers to be trained, tested, as well as, certified to a national standard – determined by the FMCSA. Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that the new rule would also create a national online registry of medical examiners who have met the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s certification requirement.

According to a statement released by the Department of Transportation’s Secretary, it was revealed that this new rule will ultimately ensure that healthcare professionals conducting exams keep in mind “all of the demands required to operate large trucks and passenger buses safely.” Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Administrator released a statement that addressed that “truck and bus drivers deserve to have well-trained examiners.” Also, by holding medical examiners accountable to increased standards of medical practice, the bar is ultimately raised for safety and saves lives through increased commercial driver and vehicle safety.

Our Chicago truck accident lawyers learned that the rule is schedule for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Federal Register. It has been reported that the process will unfold in stages. As part of the first stage, on May 21 the National Registry of medical examiners will become available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website. Additionally, training and testing requirements those individuals conducting medical examinations will be revealed. The availability of the website will be provided to medical examiners, large commercial vehicle drivers, trucking employers, law enforcement officials, as well as, the public.

TruckingInfo.com reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has recently shut down a New Jersey trucking carrier after declaring the carrier an “imminent hazard to public safety.” Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration placed the transportation company out of service after numerous roadside inspections revealed multiple hours-of-service, driver, as well as, vehicle maintenance violations. The out of service order mandates that compliance be held by both the principals and drivers of the trucking carrier.

A Chicago trucking accident attorney at our firm learned that numerous safety investigators uncovered evidence that the trucking carrier continued to maintain operation, despite having an active United States Department of Transportation number, as well as, a valid operating authority. Additionally, it was found that the trucking carrier operated large commercial vehicles that had severe mechanical defects and were not routinely inspected and/or repaired. The article also reports that the company’s semi truck drivers also obtained severe violations relating to hours-of-service and driver qualification.

The news report confirms that in May 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety New Jersey Division attempted to conduct an obligatory safety investigation of the trucking carrier. However, the safety agency was unsuccessful after several attempts to schedule an investigation with the carrier and the agency ultimately deactivated the trucking carrier’s Department of Transportation number. Despite the inactivation, in addition to, a lack of operating authority and insufficient safety management, the trucking carrier continued to operate.

Any Chicago accident lawyer will tell you that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has heavily regulated the hours-of-service that large commercial vehicle drivers are permitted to operate in a given week. This regulation was implemented as a necessary measure to protect truck driver health and ensure that the safety of the traveling public is not compromised by driver fatigue and subsequent fatigued-related semi truck accidents.

In order to adhere to this rule, our accident lawyers in Chicago know that truck drivers are required to records their traveling hours manually in paper logbooks. However, this ancient system of recording hours has been severely plagued by false information and manipulation at the hands of truck drivers and their trucking carriers.

In order to make the process more legitimate and free of any illegality, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration developed a new system that will be implemented in June 2012. This system would ultimately mandate stringent regulation on trucking carriers who exceed the allotted 10 percent of hours-of-service noncompliance. Additionally, trucking carriers who maintain a 40 percent higher crash rate than the general trucking population would be required to install Electronic On-Board Recorded in all commercial vehicles.

Yesterday, BostonGlobe.com published an article detailing highway safety advocate’s continued desire to rigorously enforce state inspections on buses and other types of large commercial vehicles by government regulators. Our Chicago accident lawyers read that after a series of fatal accidents, these highway safety advocates are questioning the oversight methods of the National Transportation Safety Board for their inspection programs in Texas, Mississippi, as well as, Illinois. The article reveals that over forty people have died in these accidents, yet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has failed to act upon directed recommendations to these carriers.

Under current guidelines, federal rules require that commercial vehicles be inspected annually. These inspections are permitted to be conducted by state workers, private garages, or even the carriers operating the vehicles that are to be inspected. Additionally, our Illinois accident attorneys learned that passing a roadside inspection can also meet the legal requirements as longs as it occurs within the previous year. However, it is reported that over half of our nation’s states maintain no recommended inspection requirements. This means that it is often left up to the motor carriers to implement their own inspection requirements.

A Chicago truck accident lawyer at our firm learned that on March 14 a legislative bill was approved by the Senate which would require the federal government to evaluate state inspection programs. However, the legislation has failed to make any headway in the House of Representatives. In a statement released by a trucking industry consultant – who was once the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – it was revealed that the FMCSA does not have the resources and funding in order to properly and adequately monitor state commercial vehicle inspections.

MarketWatch.com recently released a news report detailing new software that has been designed specifically for drivers of large commercial vehicles that aims at preventing driver distraction. The safety software, which meets full compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s prohibition against semi truck driver hand-held cell phone use, allows trucking carrier’s to ensure that their employee’s cell phone usage is fully compatible with federal regulations.

Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that the software, entitled FleetSafer Mobile, prevents truck drivers from texting and emailing while driver, in addition to, providing inbound and outbound call management in a manner “complaint within the Federal Motor Carrier’s requirement that any mobile phone calls made while driving be “one-touch” and hands free in nature.”

Our accident attorneys in Chicago learned though a statement released by the CEO of the software developer that it was revealed that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s prohibition of cell phone use by semi truck drivers is an important step in the continued prevention of distracted driving, however, the rule provides truck driver, as well as, their carriers with no adequate solutions to promote compliance. The creation and implementation of this software provides the trucking industry with a straightforward, as well as, inexpensive way to encourage safe and legal compliance with federal cell phone regulations.

Earlier today, a Chicago truck accident lawyer at our firm read a news report posted on TTNews.com detailing a new initiative that has been developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to help curb the increasing epidemic of truck driver sleep apnea. In a statement released by the chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the federal government is looking into mandated guidelines that would require drivers who are diagnosed with sleep apnea to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. The CPAP machines are designed to keep the user’s airway open during sleep.

Frequently discussed on our Illinois trucking accident blog, sleep apnea is a condition where the tongue and soft palate relax when a person sleeps. This ultimately causes the sufferer to undergo obstructed breathing – resulting in the sufferer to wake up so often that they are unable to maintain adequate sleep. The design of the CPAP machines permits for a constant stream of air into the nasal passages which allows for uninterrupted sleep. An additional aspect of the CPAP guideline would require the installment of these machines into the sleeper berth of tractor-trailers.

However, this concept has been met with criticism from the trucking industry’s fleet and vendor executives. It has been argued that the CPAP machines were designed for in-home usage – not in the sleeper berths of tractor-trailers. A trucking carrier in Wisconsin revealed that although sleep apnea screening and CPAP use is highly favored, the use of the machine in-truck would cause substantial problems. For instance, it was argued that in the event two truck drivers are en route in the same truck and one is in the sleeping berth using the machine – if the other driver hits a pothole the water from the humidifier in the CPAP machine will spill all over the CPAP user.

TruckingInfo.com released a report earlier this week revealing shocking information pertaining to truck drivers and diabetes. The article reports that according to leading trucking physicians, diabetes in truck drivers in under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated. In light of this, a new medical task force has been developed in an effort to garner awareness on the issue and provide consistent oversight of drivers with diabetes. One of the main problems the truck industry faces is that truck drivers with diabetes are dependent on insulin and are not permitted to drive commercial vehicles unless they are granted a special exemption.

However, despite these standards, current Department of Transportation examinations does not require a blood sugar test for drivers. Our Chicago truck accident lawyers learned that they rely only on the driver to self-report a diabetes diagnosis, and call for a urine test for sugar, protein and several other measures. On the other hand, there is no way to determine if a driver is in control of their diabetes solely based on a urinalysis.

Currently, our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that a joint task force of leading diabetes treatment specialists is currently being convened to develop “consensus recommendations for diabetic drivers.” Similar to the tasks forces that have been developed for truck drivers and sleep apnea, the diabetes task force is looking to help define exactly what diabetes is, the best practices for treatment, as well as, the appropriate testing for large commercial vehicle drivers.

Earlier this month, our Illinois trucking accident blog reported a lawsuit that had filed by the American Trucking Associations challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service rule for truck drivers. The ATA asserts that the new rule, which requires truck drivers to spend two back-to-back 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods off-duty before restarting their hours of service logs for a new week, will keep some drivers off-duty much longer before permitting them to start a new work week. Additionally, the ATA argues that the new HOS rule was created through means of changed assumptions and analyses that do not meet the required legal standards.

However, subsequent litigation has been sought by numerous safety agencies – including: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, the Truck Safety Coalition, as well as, two truck drivers. According to a news report, posted on The Journal of Commerce Online, these groups have publicly criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for maintaining the 11-hour daily driving limit for large commercial vehicle drivers in the recently released final rule. Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that on Friday the safety groups filed for appellate review to challenge the federal HOS regulation.

In a statement released by the vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, it was argued that it is appalling that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration continues to implement rules that fail to adequately address truck driver fatigue in light of the agency’s goal to prevent truck-related deaths and injury. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Public Citizen initial wanted the FMCSA to implement a 10-hour daily driving limit and eliminate the 34-hour restart provision. However, when the FMCSA updated their final rule in late December, the 34-hour restart provision was revised – not eliminated- and the 11-hour driving limit was maintained.

Earlier this week, the United States Department of Transportation publicized their proposed voluntary guidelines that aim at persuading automobile makers to limit distractions for in-vehicle electronic devices. Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that these propositions would be applicable to communications, entertainment, information gathering, as well as, other navigational functions that have play prominent roles in driver distraction in many automobiles on the market today. Although a majority of these guidelines are aimed towards motor vehicles less than 10,000 pounds, a National Highway Traffic Safety Association spokesperson revealed that the agency will be looking into applying the guidelines to heavier commercial vehicles with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at a later date.

Currently, Phase I guidelines have been proposed to include information for manufacturers that would ensure that the systems or devices used in the creation of new motor vehicles hold the least likelihood of causing distraction to the driver of that vehicle. A Chicago truck accident lawyer at our office read on TruckingInfo.com that overall the voluntary guidelines seeks to prevent distractions that are not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle or cause unnecessary distraction by persuading the driver to take their hands or eyes off the vehicle for more than just a few seconds while driving.

The proposed Phase I guidelines currently include the following recommendations:

Bloomberg.com released a report earlier this week detailing a legal petition that has been filed by one of the largest U.S. trucking groups, American Trucking Associations. The petition challenges that Transportation’s Departments driver fatigue rules that were previously established during the implementation of the new commercial vehicle driver hours-of-service rules. Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that the president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations released a statement asserting that the driver fatigue rules focus on the wrong safety issues, in addition to, not meeting legal requirements.

Additionally, the American Trucking Associations President alleges that the rule-making implemented under a cloud of changed assumptions and analyses that does not meet required legal standards. Another representation for the American Trucking Associations asserts while the final hours-of-service rule maintained an 11-hour limit on the number of hours a trucker is permitted to driver – instead of limiting it to the proposed 10 hours, the trucking industry objects to the current requirement of a 34-hour rest period each week that would require drivers to be off two consecutive nights.

When addressing driver fatigue issues, the group states that many more fatalities and injuries are due to large commercial vehicle accidents caused by speeding rather than driver fatigue. However, our Chicago trucking accident lawyers learned that the federal government has been sued in 2003, 2006, as well as 2009 for permitting 11-hour driving shifts. Upon the settlement of the third lawsuit, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration agreed that the agency would review and rebuild the regulation.

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