A news release from US Newswire recently disclosed that thousands of trucking companies regularly violate federal safety regulations. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was analyzed. Examples of the violations included inadequate insurance, bald tires, defective brakes and loads that dangerously exceed weight limits. Drivers with little or no training and drivers with a history of drug and alcohol dependency were also cited. The data is alarming. These vehicles share the road with every one of us. Drivers falsifying log books to show they haven’t been on the road too long with lack of sleep has always been a problem.
So has the practice of trucking companies pushing drivers to do deliver loads quicker to maximize profit. Truckers know if they don’t cut corners, the company will hire someone who will. And independent operators make more money the more loads they pick up and deliver. Working long hours, ignoring speed limits and driving when fatigued are all common factors cited in semi truck accidents. So how many unsafe trucks are on the road? The FMCSA data on safety records and performance of American trucking companies revealed the violations involved over 200,000 trucks currently being operated on the highways. The data also revealed that over 4,000 people die every year and over 80,000 are seriously injured in accidents involving trucks. And the vast majority of people killed and injured are not the truck drivers. The victims are the drivers and passengers of the cars they hit. Though trucks make up less than 4 percent of all vehicles on the road, they are involved in 12 percent of all traffic fatalities. While the number of unsafe trucks on the road is alarming, the numbers cited by the FMCSA are likely just the tip of the iceberg. Many deadly accidents involving unsafe trucks are not recorded as safety violations. In 2005, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study that showed nearly one third of trucking accidents the states are required to report to the federal government were never reported. In 2009 a GAO study found that more than 1,000 trucking companies that were ordered to close due to safety violations, simply reopened under a different name, often with the same owner, same company address and the same drivers. The federal data from the FMCSA ranked states that had trucking companies with violations of safety requirements above the national average. Unfortunately, Oregon was one of them. A listing of trucking companies operating in violation of federal safety standards can be found at www.justice.org/trucksafetyviolations.