Government officials should do everything in their power to reduce the likelihood of commercial truck accidents. The most dangerous reality on American highways is the close proximity within which passenger vehicles operate alongside massive semis and tankers. Limiting driver hours, enforcing maintenance standards and reducing load sizes are important strategies, but keeping unsafe drivers out of the cab in the first place is a key measure.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains a variety of data on commercial drivers – including an individual’s history of crashes and serious safety violations – that can be used to identify unsafe drivers in pre-employment screenings by carriers. Trucking companies have a vested interest in uncovering records of safety infractions, drunk driving, and other incidents because a company can be held accountable for negligent hiring practices that ignored obvious warning signs and put dangerous truck drivers behind the wheel.
The FMCSA announced this year that it wants to extend the data collected under this system to include information beyond the mere fact that an accident occurred. In the future, commercial drivers and motor carrier companies could use the agency’s DataQ system to submit police accident reports that show accountability in a particular incident. However, the FMCSA maintains that data on crash involvement remains a sound indicator of future safety performance, with or without accountability factored in.
This was one important potential reform to emerge from a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) forum on truck and bus safety. One other important recent suggestion put forth by the NTSB is the requirement of electronic onboard recording devices to track drivers’ hours of service. Reliable proof of a driver’s actual hours behind the wheel can play an important role in a trucking accident attorney’s assessment of liability to help a client pursue full compensation for injuries or wrongful death.