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Regulatory enforcement boost may reduce truck accidents


When it comes to commercial motor carrier safety, the enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Each year, FMCSA inspectors investigate about 15,000 American trucking companies for compliance with federal safety regulations.

In a recent example, the FMCSA suspended the Land Air Express of New England trucking company for its alleged failure to screen its employee drivers for drug and alcohol use, pursuant to regulations. The company is one of the largest to date to be suspended by the FMCSA.

The suspension is an important reminder that a truck accident may involve more than just an individual driver’s negligent actions. If the driver is an employee of a commercial fleet, that entity may also be liable to the extent any regulatory violations factored into the crash. From failing to comply with maintenance requirements or enforce hours-of-service limitations, a company shares in the responsibility of safe trucking.

However, there are about 550,000 trucking companies in America. The FMCSA’s annual audits reach less than 3 percent of them. Part of the reason is that an audit may take several days, and requires a formal rating to be applied before a company is suspended. As a law firm that focuses on truck accidents, we have seen far too many examples of negligence, and the cost that it has inflicted on other innocent drivers.

A new FMCSA proposal would empower investigators to issue audit quality ratings of a company based on roadside inspections. By one estimate, the FMCSA would be able to screen 75,000 carriers each month. Agency officials hope that more expedient assessments will get violators off the road and make America’s roads and highways more safe.