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Proposed federal rule targets trucking firms to reduce accidents

Pressure for improving truck safety appears to only be growing.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation enacted new rules limiting the hours that truckers can spend behind the wheel during a given week. Last month, the agency took another step by announcing a proposed rule aimed at preventing other players in the trucking logistics chain from pressuring drivers to violate hours-of-service regulations.

If the rule is eventually enacted, it would allow the government to fine trucking firms, shippers and receivers if they attempt to coerce drivers to violate hour rules through threats of job loss, pay cuts or other forms of intimidation. Each violation could result in a fine of $11,000.

As those with experience in this area of law and safety know, driver fatigue is one of the major causes of deadly truck accidents on the nation's roads. Ohio is not immune from the problem. The intent of the new rules, the government says, is to reduce crashes involving trucks by making sure drivers of tractor-trailers are as alert as they can be when at the helms of their big rigs.

Adding to the pressure in this area is the truck-bus accident earlier this month that left comic actor Tracy Morgan hospitalized and another man dead. As we noted in a post at the time, trucker fatigue is suspected to have been a factor in that tragedy.

That has yet to be proven, but the possibility of it being true has sparked calls this week from Sen. Charles Schumer for the Obama administration to moving ahead on a rule that would require trucks to be fitted with electronic logging devices.

The rule has been under consideration since 2010 and the New York Democrat says it's time to put it into practice. He also suggests that the administration study whether minimum liability insurance limits on trucks shouldn't be updated. They haven't changed since 1985.

Source: The Hill, "Feds move to help truckers pressured to violate safety regs," Benjamin Goad, May 12, 2014
Source: Newsday, "Schumer pushes for "black boxes" to combat trucker fatigue," Emily Ngo, June 15, 2014

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