Safety Regulation Backlash as Rules Are Rolled Back by the Trump Administration
Few wrecks in our state or elsewhere are more frightening or deadly than those involving giant trucks. I was, therefore, alarmed to read moves to make trucks safer are under threat by a safety regulation backlash under the Trump administration.
A report on WNYC News described one of the worst big truck crashes in recent years. In 2015, a tractor-trailer plowed into cars in a construction zone on I-75 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Six people lost their lives in that terrible incident when an 18-ton tractor-trailer traveling at 80-miles-per-hour failed to slow down and crashed into eight vehicles. The driver was subsequently convicted of vehicular homicide and other offenses.
In response to this incident and other big rig crashes, the Obama administration proposed devices that would limit the speeds of big trucks.
The rule would have required each new vehicle to have its device set to a speed not greater than a specified speed and to be equipped with a means of reading the truck’s current speed setting along with two previous speed settings via an onboard diagnostic connection. Carriers would have been required to maintain the speed-limiting device for the service life of the vehicle.
Just over six months into the Trump administration the rule died. A revised “unified agenda,” published on July 20 by the Office of Management and Budget, revealed the speed-limiter rule fell off the near-term agendas for both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There is no indication that this potentially life-saving software will be revived again.
This is not the only safety rule to die in the new era of deregulation as a safety regulation backlash takes hold at Washington D.C.
A review by the Associated Press of rule-making activities in Trump’s first 12-months in office found at least a dozen transportation safety rules developed under the Obama administration have gone, been repealed, or shelved.
Many of these transportation safety rules we opposed by big business interests such as the trucking industry and many political appointees who now head departments are from the private sector.
AP reported no new safety rules were adopted under the Trump administration. Important safety rules sidelined include:
- Measures to equip cars and light trucks in the future with vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems to prevent collisions.
- Yearly inspections of commercial bus operators.
- The requirement of railroad companies to operate locomotives with at least two crew members.
Trump has pledged to purge government departments of unnecessary rules. The president has waged war on regulations. Early in his presidency, Trump signed an Executive Order requiring agencies to slash two regulations for every new regulation put into place in America. He claimed he has slashed 22 rules for every one.
Trump claimed deregulation has strengthened the stock market and impacted unemployment.
The ditching of many transportation safety rules alarms campaigners who want to make our roads less hazardous places.
Although Trump said the safety regulation backlash has improved the economy, the AP report noted the rule requiring speed-limiting equipment on new trucks would have economic benefits, according to a transportation department estimate prepared two years ago. The federal department estimated it would save just under 500 lives a year and create a saving of $475 million to nearly $5 billion a year.
The fatality figure comprises half of the 1,100 yearly fatalities in big rig crashes on the highways of America with limits of 55 mph or higher.
The proposal may also have addressed a second safety issue: Most tires for heavy trucks are not designed to travel over 75 mph. However, some states have speed limits of 80 mph.
The Trump administration has also backtracked on moves for screening for tired truckers and train drivers.
After four people lost their lives when a New York commuter train derailed while speeding around a curve in New York in 2013, investigators determined the engineer fell asleep. The engineer had undiagnosed sleep apnea, a disorder that causes the sleeper to stop breathing and prevents restful sleep. The driver made no effort to stop the train.
The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash in part on federal regulators who were not requiring medical screening of engineers for sleep disorders. Despite serious concerns about sleep apnea, last summer, the Transportation Department dropped moves to draft a rule requiring medical screening for engineers and truck and bus drivers.
Sleep apnea is a major hazard for train drivers, truckers and bus drivers. The safety regulation backlash means it’s no longer being addressed on the roads or the railroads.
If you have been hurt in a trucking wreck or lost a loved one in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia or elsewhere, please call our trucking accident injury lawyers at (757) 455-0077.