There has been lots of discussion regarding a recent article in the Huffington Post entitled, “Trucks Are Getting More Dangerous And Drivers Are Falling Asleep At The Wheel. Thank Congress.” There should be: it’s important that the public understand what is going on today regarding regulation of those big, heavy commercial trucks that we share the roads with here in Indiana and Illinois. Scary stuff.
Written by Michael McAuliff, the piece begins with a description of a fatal Illinois truck crash that happened back in January 2014 on the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway.
Most everyone in Illinois and Indiana remembers that crash (read our 2014 post here): not only did Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder almost burn to death in that truck crash, but Tollway driver Vincent Petrella died in the crash and stalled truck driver Agron Xhelaj was seriously hurt. The truck driver who caused the crash after falling asleep at the wheel of his big rig, Renato Velasquez, also died in the inferno.
The Huffington Post then points a finger at Congress, and delves into the power trucking company lobbyists are exerting in Washington, D.C. over trucking industry legislation. That’s not news, the continuing fight to block legislation that hurts the trucking industry’s bottom line (we discuss this problem regularly). The point being made by HuffPo is how successful this lobbying can be in a specific circumstance.
Of course, HuffPo continues, the executive branch is involved here, as well, since there has been a failure to address the very real problem of truck drivers suffering from sleep apnea among federal agencies as well.
HuffPo reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has bent to pressure from these lobbyists and withdrawn its proposed regulations that would have required truck drivers to be checked and monitored for sleep apnea.
Meanwhile, it’s not as if the FMCSA is not aware of the dangers of semi trucks sharing the roads with smaller motor vehicles. The FMCSA has been collecting data and compiling annual reports on the dangers of large trucks for many years (see, e.g., FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2014).
FMCSA Reports 21% Increase Both in Number of Truck Crash Injuries and Large Truck Accidents
According to the FMCSA, there has been a shocking increase not only in the number of large commercial trucks (semis, big rigs, 18 wheelers, tractor trailers) that have been in traffic accidents but also in the number of people who have been hurt in these large commercial truck crashes.
1. 21% Increase in Truck Crash Injuries
The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 21% (73,000 to 88,000).
2. Large Trucks Being Involved in Accidents Skyrockets 21%
The large truck involvement rate in injury crashes likewise jumped up by 21 percent.
1. Risk of Truck Crash is Higher at Night
37% of all fatal crashes, 19% of all injury crashes, and 20% of all property-damage only crashes involving large trucks occurred at night (6:00 pm to 6:00 am).
2. Danger of Semi Truck Accident is Greater on Weekdays
The vast majority of fatal crashes (84 percent) and nonfatal crashes (88 percent) involving large trucks occurred on weekdays (Monday through Friday).
Three Large Truck Crashes Reported Locally in the Past 72 Hours: One Death
Which makes sense, if you check the news for our part of the country this week. Consider the following local large truck accidents within the past 72 hours:
- April 25, 2016 – Illinois: Two Large Trucks Collide; One Truck Driver Dies
A young man driving a tractor-trailer truck died yesterday in a truck crash when his rig hit another commercial truck, a bigger semi, on Interstate 88 in Naperville, Illinois. The young trucker rear-ended the semi and tragically perished from the impact of the crash. The other semi truck driver was also injured and hospitalized for his truck accident injuries.
2. April 26, 2016 – Indiana: Semi Truck Hit By Car and Jackknifes
Early this morning over in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a semi-truck was hit by a car that reportedly ran a red light and slammed into the big rig. The semi jackknifed on Lafayette Street, leaking fluids on the roadway and keeping Lafayette closed to traffic while the mess was cleaned up. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in this truck crash.
3. April 23, 2016 – Illinois: Big Rig Crashes Into Home
Three days ago, a semi truck slammed into an Englewood home over in Chicago after the truck driver failed to stop at a red light and crashed into a car, with momentum propelling the big rig onward, from the crashed car and into a brick home on West 59th.
Regulations and Power of the Trucking Industry
What is happening in Congress and with federal regulations of the trucking industry today? One thing: the United States Senate began reviewing the federal budget for the Transportation Department last week. Here’s an example of how the trucking industry lobbyists are hard at work. If they can block or otherwise influence funding decisions, then they can impact things like truck driver hours of service rules (HOS) and more.