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Changes in Trucking and Busing Regulations Highlight Potential Causes of Catastrophic Accidents

In 2012, a wide-ranging transportation bill that included both funding for the nation’s infrastructure and new safety regulations for commercial transportation was signed into federal law. Called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 st Century – or MAP-21 for short – it recently received updates that impact commercial truckers and bus companies, and highlight long-standing safety concerns posed by the industries.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued the 17-part rule to update MAP-21. Many of the updates tighten a commercial carrier’s responsibility or increase the financial penalties for commercial motor vehicle violations.

Federal Safety Regulation Updates for Commercial Trucks and Buses

For instance, prior to the updates a commercial trucking company was in violation of the law only if it knew that one of its drivers was driving on a revoked or suspended commercial driver’s license. With this new rule, the trucking company can be found liable if it knew or reasonably should have known a truck driver was operating without a valid license.

New trucking companies now must undergo a safety review within one year of its start date, and commercial passenger carriers must have a safety review within 120 days. Previously, the safety review was required within 18 months of beginning operations for each type of company.

Before the new rule, companies that transported hazardous waste without appropriately registering with government agencies faced a maximum fine of $20,000. The minimum fine for such a potentially dangerous violation is now $20,000 and the maximum fine is doubled to $40,000.

Under the original MAP-21, if a commercial motor vehicle was operating outside the scope of its registration, the FMCSA could take that particular vehicle off the street. Now, if just one truck or commercial bus is not registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the entire trucking company could be shut down by the federal government.

One can assume that the violations receiving tougher scrutiny and increased fines are indications of their seriousness as public safety threats. There are many causes for catastrophic trucking accidents. The leading cause of big rig accidents is driver error, with improper maintenance another significant contributor.

Since there can be a variety of causes, investigations into commercial trucking accidents are typically complex. So if you or a family member is a victim of a trucking accident, attorneys experienced in holding trucking companies accountable can be a valuable resource.