Dallas, 12/14/2016 /SubmitPressRelease123/
Truck Accident Attorneys of 1800 Truck Wreck are reporting on the government’s recent push to change the requirements for new commercial truck drivers who want to obtain a license, and what effect it will have on lowering the number of truck crashes.
In March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a new set of training standards governing entry-level commercial truck drivers and bus operators who want to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
The proposals were triggered by the passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which was signed into law in 2012.
Before examining the tenets of the new commercial truck driver training standards, it’s important to first understand how MAP-21 fits into the FMCSA’s new strategy for lowering the number of truck accidents
For years, officials at the FMCSA have been seeking to create new proposals to lower the number of commercial vehicle accidents on the road.
MAP-21 was a two-year transportation reauthorization bill that grew out of this desire, and it contains many provisions to lower truck wreck injuries and fatalities.
The new law was written with three main goals:
- Raise the standards of driver training for entry-level work as a commercial truck driver or bus driver
- Raise the safety standards required of commercial truck drivers and bus drivers in an effort to lower wrecks
- Take unsafe and high-risk commercial drivers and commercial carriers off the road
Although MAP-21 funding expired after the 2014 fiscal year, FMCSA officials are pushing for stricter training standards for truck drivers because the rate of truck wrecks has not lowered significantly in the past four years.
“The FMCSA is full of smart people who can read statistics and trends,” stated attorney Amy Witherite, partner at the personal injury law firm of Eberstein Witherite, LLP, which has offices in many major cities in Texas as well as in Atlanta, Georgia. “The fact is, we haven’t seen a significant reduction in the number of truck wrecks, or the number of truck wreck fatalities, especially when you consider that a commercial truck driver is far less likely to die in an accident caused by his truck than the people in the vehicle that are hit by the truck. And we know that inexperience is one of the contributing factors in big truck wrecks.”
New Entry-Level CDL Requirements
The FMCSA’s new proposals would override all state-based requirements for new drivers to obtain their CDLs.
In fact, what makes CDL standards a thorny issue is that each state has its own requirements for a driver to obtain a CDL, including the number of hours spent training on the road with a qualified driver.
The FMCSA is attempting to consolidate the different requirements under one set of rules that states would have to follow.
The new proposals would require any applicant seeking a Class A CDL – which is required to operate a combination tractor-trailer vehicle weighing 26,0001 pounds or more – to possess a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel experience from a training program that meets the FMCSA’s standards.
That experience would also have to include at least 10 hours of driving a commercial vehicle on a practice driving range, meaning a closed course where safety methods are easier to apply than in real-life situations.
Entry-level applicants who want to obtain a Class B CDL – which is required for driving a “straight truck” such as a dump truck, or a school bus, transit bus or motorcoach – would have to have at least 15 hours of behind-the-wheel experience, including at least seven hours on a practice driving range.
The new proposals do not stipulate a minimum number of hours for classroom work, so those standards would continue to be left up to each state to determine.
The proposals would apply to:
- First-time CDL applicants
- Drivers with a CDL who are trying to upgrade to another class or are seeking an endorsement, such as to operate a truck transporting hazardous materials
- Any CDL holder seeking to obtain a new license after their original CDL was revoked
Any commercial truck driver or prospective commercial truck driver who falls under one of those categories would be subject to the FMCSA’s new entry-level requirements.
Furthermore, they would have to obtain their training from a training provider certified by the FMCSA.
These training providers would have to meet minimum qualifications, cover a specific curriculum, and be listed on the FMCSA’s proposed Training Provider Registry, a national database of qualified trainers.
The only group of drivers excluded from the proposed regulations would be farmers, military drivers and firefighters.
“Well-trained drivers are safer drivers, which leads to greater safety for our families and friends on our highways and roads,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “With the help of our partners, today’s proposal serves as a major step towards ensuring that commercial vehicle drivers receive the necessary training required to safely operate a large truck or motor coach.”
Inexperienced Truck Drivers Cause More Accidents
The FMCSA’s new proposals are intended to lower the rate of truck wrecks caused by inexperienced or improperly trained truck drivers.
This has been a divisive issue that has pitted professional truck member organizations such as the Teamsters against the FMCSA for years.
The truck member organizations believe that the government has dragged its feet in implementing stricter training methods, and in fact, a group of them filed suit in 2014 against the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the FMCSA for delaying the passage of these stricter laws.
“The Teamsters and a number of other safety organizations have been pressing the FMCSA for more than 20 years to raise training standards for entry-level truck drivers,” added Witherite. “This is by no means a new issue, but one that has been fought for decades. Responsible truck drivers understand that inexperienced drivers cause more accidents and blemish the reputation of safe drivers who are properly trained to avoid wrecks. So the burden hasn’t been on truck drivers pushing back, but more so on the fact that getting anything pushed through the government is often an arduous process. But the tragedy is that people are dying on the roads as we wait for these proposals to become law.”
And the FMCSA’s own studies bear out the fact that inexperience is a major factor in the number of truck wrecks each year.
The most recent FMCSA large truck crash causation study listed the following as major causes of truck accidents:
- Inadequate surveillance
- Driving too fast
- Illegal maneuver
- Unfamiliarity with road
Even a cursory examination of each of these causation factors shows that they are all either directly related to or tangentially related to driver inexperience.
There are an estimated four million truck drivers in the U.S. who possess a CDL, and in many states an entry-level commercial truck driver must only attend 10 hours of classroom training and pass an exam to obtain a CDL.
Adding to the problem is that there is a large shortage of qualified commercial truck drivers in the U.S.
According to the American Trucking Association, one of the leading truck carrier organizations, there are about 48,000 truck driver openings in the U.S. in 2016, and over the next nine years, there are expected to be about 890,000 openings.
But the bigger problem is that 29 percent of the nation’s commercial truck drivers are in the 45 to 54-age range, and many of them are leaving the industry due to burnout, exhaustion and low pay.
As a result, truck carriers are hiring new drivers who have never driven large vehicles before, and are sending them out on the road with very little practical training.
Worse yet, many truck carriers only pay drivers when their trucks are actually on the road, which forces many inexperienced operators to spend even more hours on highways, which increases the likelihood of a truck wreck.
“One solution that has worked for some truck carriers is raising the starting wages of entry-level truck drivers, which studies have shown attracts better drivers and lowers accidents,” Witherite added. “When truck carriers pay a wage that makes applicants feel as if this is a professional job with the same respect accorded to white collar workers, everything gets better. Training programs are extended, safety is made a priority, and the overall job satisfaction increases. And truck carriers that pay per hour instead of per the amount of time the truck is on the road would probably find their drivers are more relaxed and more likely to emphasize safety over the rush to make a delivery time.”
Do I Need A Lawyer After a Truck Wreck?
Many people who have been involved in an accident caused by a commercial truck wonder if they really need a personal injury lawyer. The short and long answer is “yes!”
It may be helpful to look at things from the perspective of the truck company that owns the truck that hit you, because you can bet that this carrier will send an investigator to the accident site immediately to confer with the truck driver and to “secure” all evidence.
Do you really want to be at an extreme disadvantage this early in the process?
A personal injury lawyer’s sole duty is to protect your rights from the moment the accident occurs until you receive your settlement.
Call 1800 Truck Wreck
If you live in Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, Austin, Laredo, El Paso, Lubbock, Tyler or Midland and you have suffered injuries in a truck wreck, please call 1-800-Truck-Wreck and speak to one of the attorneys at 1800 Truck Wreck. They have spent decades helping truck accident victims find justice and restore their lives. Call us today or complete this form, and a member of our team will contact you for a free consultation.
Eberstein & Witherite, LLP
Email: l[email protected]
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