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The Proposed Truck Safety Act: What You Need to Know

Truck accidents are one of the leading causes for roadway related deaths in our country. With the growing need for transportation for goods, it doesn't seem like the commercial trucking industry is going to slow down any time soon. In response to countless deadly accidents that have been caused by truck drivers, many have called for changes to the rules regulating commercial truck driving.

A new bill proposed in the U.S. Senate last month sought to address some of the main concerns many have about commercial truck drivers. Known as the Truck Safety Act, this bill would seek to implement several new rules, changing the way truck drivers are paid, how much they are insured by employers, and speed limiters on heavy trucks.

Increasing Minimum Liability Insurance

The Truck Safety Act included a provision that would require all motor carriers to hold $1.5 million in liability insurance compared to the current $750,000 minimum. Many accident victims require extensive medical care and support. This increase means that more drivers could have peace of mind knowing insurance would cover any bills resulting from an accident.

While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) attempted to implement a new rule that would do this very same thing last year, no real progress was ever made. Both the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operated Independent Drivers Association contested the idea of increasing the minimum liability insurance, claiming the current minimums cover "more than 99% of crashes" as it is. Work done in Congress has even attempted to block the liability increase, including provisions set out in the Department of Transportation funding bill for 2016 fiscal year.

Hourly Pay vs. Per-Mile Pay

Traditionally, commercial drivers are paid per-mile, which means there is often much pressure to drive faster or press through breaks to ensure an adequate day's pay is secured. The Truck Safety Act proposes that drivers should be paid for all hours worked, not just mileage driven. This would ideally help reduce dangerous driving habits, such as speeding, skipping rest breaks, and other habits commercial drivers engage in to hit certain mile makers.

Though the change to liability insurance was not received as openly, many are more willing to consider changing the way drivers are compensated. Even the Obama Administration has proposed similar provisions in the White House's highway bill proposals for the past two years.

Collision Systems & Speed Limiters

The Truck Safety Act also aims to include a new rule that would require all new trucks to have collision avoidance systems. These systems are designed to help drivers avoid dangerous accidents that often occur due to lack of vision, blind spots, or speeding. In addition, the act would also require FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) to finalize their rule to mandate speed limiters for heavier trucks within a year. Currently, the draft for this rule is anticipated to be produced at the end of the month, but the final rule could take more than a year to be released. The provision aims to push then to craft a joint rule that will begin making roads safer as soon as possible.

The act also included a provision for studying excessive commuting performed by drivers and how it impacted safety, especially in the area of driver fatigue. As of now, it is not clear whether each proposal in the bill will be considered on its own or if the bill will be considered only in its entirety.

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