Less paperwork for truck drivers means less protection for Tennessee drivers.

We try very hard to share the road with large trucks but, as a Nashville truck accident and injury attorney, I can tell you that collisions between them and personal vehicles happen far too often.  For the most part, the drivers are careful, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are sleep deprived, under pressure to deliver their payloads quickly, and afraid of being penalized for taking too long because of traffic, road construction or bad weather conditions.  Sometimes they are just plain aggressive in their driving and use the fact that they are bigger than us to bully anything smaller than them on the roadways.

That’s why we’re concerned about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recent announcement regarding changes to trucker hours of service rules.  On August 7,2013 The U.S. Department of Transportation published a proposed rulemaking announcement in the Federal Register to formalize these changes.  The proposed rule changes attempt to reduce the amount of paperwork commercial truck drivers are required to complete.  They would not require truck drivers file an inspection report when there are no know problems with their equipment. It’s the law that a truck driver inspect his vehicle and file a report on any “known” defect on their truck (such as a tail-light not working or the brakes being sluggish”. What we’re concerned about is this, will this requirement mean the trucker becomes lax in their inspection and perhaps overlooks a defect in order that they don’t have to file a report? Perhaps they will become the judge and jury on a defect – “the brakes were a little slow, but they’ll be find awhile longer” Then the brakes fail and someone is injured or killed. Or perhaps everything went fine on the trip and the driver doesn’t anticipate any problems, so they don’t inspect at all and miss something crucial that later results in an accident.  It just doesn’t make sense to peel away the average citizen’s protection against accidents with these huge vehicles.

A little bit of good news is that, due to a recent Federal Appeals Court ruling, the FMCSA intends to specify that only short haul commercial truck drivers will be exempt from filling out such inspection reports in this limited instance.  FMCSA stated in a guidance document that short haul drivers, both those within 100 miles of their home base and those with a commercial driver license (CDL) and those without a commercial driver’s license that are within 150 miles of home, are no longer required to comply with the current safety rule requiring these drivers to take a mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of work.  The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit applied only to the non-CDL drivers within 150 miles of their home base of operation.

However, we contend that short haul trucks are just as likely to have maintenance issues that require close inspection and documentation and that the drivers of those truck are just as likely to abuse the lack of oversight as long haul truckers could be.

We must stay vigilent in our watch for the erosion of our protections as American Citizens.  While over the road trucking is a necessary and vital part of our economy for both goods and jobs, we cannot allow the lobbyist to strip away the few protections we have in case we are injured in an accident with a tractor trailer truck.  I and my staff of experienced attorneys and paralegals work through advocacy groups to voice the citizen’s right to protection and redress for injuries in a court of law and we have over 20 years of experience in successfully obtaining settlement and trial verdicts for our clients injured by semi-truck accident.