The FMCSA: Protecting Drivers, or Asleep at the Wheel?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing safety regulations of trucks, buses and other motor carriers that carry more than 15 people at a time. But like many agencies tasked with the mission to make Americans safer, the FMCSA's commitment and approach to its mission is often called into question.

This lackluster approach to consumer safety turns tragic when preventable accidents occur on America’s roads. With the sharp rise in the number of trucks rolling on American highways, the FMCSA’s duty to American drivers is becoming increasingly important. Promoting research that accurately identifies problems in truck driver safety needs to be followed up by more stringent policies that reduce these problems, and in turn make our roads safer for American drivers.

But in recent years, advocates for highway safety have identified serious discrepancies and flaws in the reporting of crash data used by the FMCSA. In late March, 2006, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group that serves as a watchdog over the FMCSA and other federal transportation agencies, Congress’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of fundamental flaws in FMCSA research in its Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) report, submitted annually to Congress.

Among the report’s shortcomings were faulty techniques in interviewing drivers, witnesses and bystanders, a reliance on ‘hearsay’ evidence, and a general failure to adequately address the ‘causes’ of truck crashes in the U.S., as the report purports to do.

In its letter to Congress, AHAS advised that the LTCCS report’s techniques were questioned by the National Academy of Sciences and the Center for Disease Control, two agencies that regularly produce reports for the purview of Congress.

In Virginia and the District of Columbia, pedestrians and drivers of motorcycles and passenger vehicles whose lives have been forever changed by the negligence of a truck driver have an attorney to turn to when tragedy strikes. Jeremy Flachs and his associates at the Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs have the success, experience and dedication to clients that is so vital in cases of truck accidents.

The fatality rates in truck accidents are substantially higher than in vehicle-to-vehicle collisions, as is the rate of catastrophic injuries involving brain injury, spinal cord injury, dismemberment and other serious injuries. Ensuring that the high costs of medical care and other costs of an injury or death are honored by the insurance companies involved requires skilled and aggressive legal counsel. For residents of Virginia and D.C., the Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs is a firm which will provide this.

Hours of Service Regulations; Records Attorneys use to Establish a Timeline in Truck Accident Cases

A prime cause of truck accidents is fatigue on the part of truck drivers. An important task of a plaintiff attorney in every truck accident case is to establish a timeline of events that occurred in the hours and minutes prior to the accident. An accurate timeline can determine if the FMCSA’s Hours of Service Regulations have been violated.

FMCSA’s hours of service regulation for truckers is a rather complex formula, one that can be confusing even to drivers themselves. The FMCSA, in its last update of HOS Regulations in October, 2005, actually shortened the length of off-duty time required by drivers, from ten hours to eight.

A truck driver’s work day is based on 24 hours, during which he or she is required to sleep, rest and eat for specific periods of time. Truck drivers are permitted to work up to 60 hours in a seven day period, according to the FMCSA.

By law, truck drivers and trucking companies must maintain several records that can pinpoint specific violations in the driver’s schedule. These records become vital to attorneys and their clients when truck accidents causing injury or death occur.

Logbooks – For attorneys, truck driver logbooks are the most commonly used records of a driver’s activity in the hours and minutes leading up to a crash. This information is vital. Because many truck crashes are related to driver fatigue, the logbook can serve as an indicator of hours-of-service violations.

Electronic On-Board Recorders – Slowly but surely, trucking companies are installing electronic on-board recorders to monitor driving and other activities of truck drivers. Unlike handwritten logbooks, these computerized systems provide minute-by-minute accounts of an on-duty driver. More advanced locator systems, such as Qual Comm Data Tracking Systems, come equipped with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems that provide attorneys with even more detail in the event of an accident.

Accident Reports – Accident reports can provide attorneys with an objective snapshot of how a truck accident scene appeared just after the collision occurred. Accident reports also help attorneys establish a record of poor or negligent driving on the part of truck drivers.

Other important records include bills of lading, gas and meal receipts and cell phone records of the driver. All of these sources of information can prove vital in a truck accident case involving injury or death.

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