There are more than 2 million tractor-trailers on the road today, with each rig weighing anywhere from 10,000 to 80,000 pounds. Unfortunately, truck accidents are responsible for a large number of fatal accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013, the most recent year for which information is available, there were 3,964 fatalities caused by large trucks. It was the fourth year in a row that the number of fatal truck accidents increased.
Why are there so many deadly truck accidents? Some of the reasons are well understood. Truck drivers work long, grueling hours, and because they are typically paid by the mile rather than by the hour, they are tempted to violate hours-of-service regulations and drive to the point of fatigue. In addition, technological safety measures such as speed regulators and collision avoidance systems are not required or even standard in the industry.
The Truck Safety Act, a bill introduced in Congress by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), seeks to modernize truck safety standards by addressing many of the factors that cause truck accidents.
Provisions of the proposed legislation include requiring speed limiting devices and collision avoidance systems. The bill would also mandate that truck drivers be paid for hours worked, rather than miles driven, to prevent overwork that can lead to fatigue. A study on excessive commuting would also be required, as many truck drivers drive many hours from their home to where they begin work, adding to their fatigue.
Finally, the proposed legislation would raise the minimum insurance that trucks must carry from $750,000 to $1.5 million. Minimum insurance requirements have not been raised since the 1980s and are inadequate to compensate victims of truck accidents. The bill would also increase the minimums to keep pace with inflation, and authorize the Secretary of Transportation to raise the minimums if necessary.