The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering new regulations that could impact commercial truck drivers, including those operating tractor-trailers.
These proposed rules aim to revamp the criteria used by FMCSA to assess a commercial truck driver's fitness for safely operating a commercial truck.
Specifically, the proposed federal regulations seek to alter the key safety metrics that are closely linked to safety outcomes, as outlined in a FreightWaves article covering these potential FMCSA rule adjustments.
Proposed rule changes for tractor-trailer drivers
The FMCSA is currently soliciting public feedback on proposed revisions to federal regulations governing the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) process for commercial truck drivers, as reported by FreightWaves. Commercial trucks include any vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds, including tractor-trailers, delivery trucks, oil tankers, and dump trucks.
Should these proposed amendments receive approval, the FMCSA would transition the SFD rating system for truck drivers from a three-tier structure to a unified single-tier system. Presently, commercial truck drivers, including tractor-trailer operators, are categorized as "satisfactory," "conditional," or "unsatisfactory."
In the event the proposed single-tier SFD rating system is implemented, commercial drivers would receive a simple "unfit" designation if they fail to meet federal SFD standards. Consequently, they would be barred from operating tractor-trailers or any other type of commercial truck, as outlined in the FreightWaves report.
Understanding the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) process
The current federal standards for the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) process involve evaluating commercial truck drivers using six distinct criteria. These factors include:
- The driving history of the truck driver.
- Compliance with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which mandate the allowable driving hours for commercial truck drivers.
- The overall physical condition and fitness of the truck driver.
- The truck driver's history of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Inspection and maintenance records of the commercial vehicle.
- The truck driver's accident history, including any prior involvements in collisions.
However, the validity of the safety measurement system (SMS) used to assess a commercial truck driver's suitability for operating a commercial truck has been questioned in numerous studies over the years, as highlighted in a recent TruckingInfo magazine article.
Truck accidents are a nationwide problem
Between 2013 and 2022, the United States witnessed a 40 percent rise in commercial truck accidents, as reported by FreightWaves. In 2022 alone, there were a staggering 166,833 commercial truck accidents nationwide, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as cited by TruckInfo.
Arkansas is no exception; from 2000 to 2019, the state documented 1,606 commercial truck accidents, based on NHTSA accident data. In one study, Arkansas was ranked the third-worst state nationwide for commercial truck accidents.
According to 2020 NHTSA accident data, Arkansas experienced 84 fatalities resulting from commercial truck accidents, translating to 2.8 deaths per 100,000 individuals—ranking it third highest among all states, as reported by Arkadelphian.
Navigating the aftermath of a tractor-trailer accident
Navigating the aftermath of a tractor-trailer accident can be a difficult journey, but you don't have to face it alone. At McDaniel Law Firm, PLC in Jonesboro, Arkansas, our dedicated team of truck accident attorneys is here to support you every step of the way.
From investigating the accident to negotiating with insurance companies and pursuing legal action when necessary, our experienced lawyers will work tirelessly on your behalf. We believe that victims of tractor-trailer accidents should not have to bear the burden of medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress caused by someone else's negligence.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in Arkansas, contact us today for a free consultation. Our focus is on winning your case and obtaining the best possible outcome for you and your family.