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Victims of Tractor-Trailer Collisions Are Calling Out For Legislation Reform

Last month, two major car wrecks involving tractor trailers occurred on I-16 within weeks of each other. Both collisions involved seven vehicles, and both led to five people dying of fatal injuries. The truck drivers were unharmed.

According to The Telegraph, the similarities between these two wrecks have highlighted the ongoing problems with tractor trailer regulations. In each wreck, the truck driver failed to stop and crashed into helpless drivers who were stopped in traffic. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has responded to public outcry by continuing research on the effectiveness of ABS systems in tractor trailers, many more individuals are calling for congressional action.

Morgan v. Wal-Mart

In the past five years, the caseMorgan v. Wal-Mart (2014) has brought tractor trailer safety awareness to the public eye. In June of 2014, comedian Tracy Morgan, his colleagues, and his personal assistant were riding in a limousine following a comedy show when a Wal-Mart tractor trailer collided with the back of their vehicle, killing one and injuring three. The vehicle occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike, a section of roadway that is notoriously dangerous and is the site of many fatal crashes. In this case, the driver of the Wal-Mart tractor trailer was speeding. Many believe that this case has led to increased media coverage of tractor trailer accidents, which are often devastating and preventable. Tracy Morgan’s case recently settled for $10 million.

Several media websites have reported that the drivers in all three collisions failed to maintain control due to speeding and (possible) exhaustion. Just last year, a wreck involving four tractor trailers occurred in Dekalb County, killing one. The wreck occurred at 4 am, around the same time asthe crash that killed several Georgia Southern University students a month ago. According to data published by the NHTSA, three to four wrecks involving tractor trailers occur every day in the United States.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published asummary of hours of service regulations for property-carrying drivers:
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1. Start of Work Shift
A driver may not drive without first taking 10 consecutive hours off duty.

2. 14-Hour Period
A driver may only drive during a period of 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty. The driver must take 10 consecutive hours off duty before resuming another 14 hours.

3. Driving Time and Rest Breaks
A driver may drive a total of 11 hours during this 14 hour period, with 3 hours of rest brakes.

4. Rest Breaks
Driving long distances is not permitted if more than 8 hours have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least thirty minutes. A driver cannot resume if they have been on duty 60 hours in a period of 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in a period of 8 consecutive days.
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In addition to these regulations, drivers and motor carriers are required to maintain their vehicles regularly. Inspections are required to be completed by an authorized FMCSA agent.

Theeditorial staff of the New York Times feels that the trucking industry is to blame.The industry is reportedly pushing congress to “allow bigger and heavier trucks with overworked drivers” onto highways. Last year, Congress temporarily suspended parts of a Department of Transportation regulation that allowed truck drivers at least 34 hours of rest after working 60 or 70 hours a week. Public interest groups and the Obama administration have objected to a trucking provisions bill that would forbid the reinstatement of this regulation. Perhaps lawmakers will consider this data in discussion of trucking regulation policy since it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the exponential increase in fatal collisions involving tractor trailers.