Recently, our government has loosened up prior restrictions that were placed upon commercial motor carriers and their drivers. These restrictions, until December 2014, required drivers to perform brief safety inspections on the commercial trucks they were driving prior to getting behind the wheel and after their trip was complete. It required these drivers to document this inspection on a checklist type sheet and turn them into the motor carrier to help the carrier keep a safety record of the vehicle. It was also to help subsequent drivers of the vehicle have a tool to review prior inspections of the vehicle to make sure that all was inspected and that the vehicle was safe.
Furthermore, it was to hold drivers accountable for failures to do proper inspections when issues on the truck arose that were not found by the drivers. While most of the commercial drivers and motor carriers on our roadway are excellent and act in accordance with their professional training and the safety regulations, this written inspection requirement (referred to commonly as a pre-trip and post-trip inspection) provided a great way to assure that all drivers, good and bad, were assuring that they were not taking blatantly unsafe vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds onto our roadways. But, likely due to lobbying efforts of motor carriers and their insurers, our government has abandoned the requirement for a written pre-trip inspection, instead now only requiring that a written report be rendered only if a defect is discovered on the inspection. In essence, truck drivers have now been given a mechanism to skip through this inspection process, as their accountability for the same has been removed. Furthermore, trucking companies and their insurers now may plead ignorance to trucking defects which cause accidents by pleading that they do not have any paperwork regarding the driver inspections of the trucks.
THE REASON FOR ABANDONING THIS IMPORTANT SAFETY LAW?
- It was not due to lack of effectiveness.
- It was not due to new technology rendering them moot.
- It was also not due to them placing any undue burdens upon drivers.
- To save the cost being spent on paper…
IF THE COST OF PAPER WAS TRULY THE CATALYST FOR THE REMOVAL OF THIS SAFETY LAW, IT BEGS THE QUESTION:
Why didn’t the government simply give drivers and carriers the option of performing the inspections electronically and storing them that way?
The answer is that the paper excuse was a convenient sell. However, just imagine if our government did any of the following tomorrow:
- Told doctors that they no longer had to record their procedures performed upon patients, or medications prescribed to patients?
- Told auto manufactures that they no longer had to perform tests or inspections on vehicles prior to selling them to the public?
- Told helmet manufactures that they no longer had to perform head injury resistance testing on them prior to selling them to high school football programs?
Hopefully, the above examples show the point I am trying to make. We cannot simply take away safety laws and standards due to the cost of complying with them. That is, by definition, choosing Profits Over Safety (or Profits Over People, depending upon where you look it up) due to big corporations and their lobbying efforts.
As stated on its website, “The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” Respectfully, this revocation of an important safety law appears to have been a step backwards toward accomplishing this mission.
Written by Attorney Sam Aguiar. Sam is licensed to practice law in Kentucky and Tennessee.