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Federal Regulations for New Driver Training Withdrawn Despite Driver Error Shown as Leading Cause of Large Truck Accidents

When tractor-trailers collide with other vehicles, it’s most likely disastrous for passengers in the other vehicles. According to the most recent statistics from the federal government, 72 percent of the deaths from accidents involving large commercial trucks in 2011 were occupants of other vehicles. Another 11 percent who were killed were pedestrians and other non-occupants who tragically were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Also, a federal study found that the number one cause of large truck accidents was driver error.

All this makes the recent news that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has decided to withdraw its proposed standards for new truck driver training disheartening.

A commercial driver’s license is required by federal law to operate a commercial motor vehicle in this country. A commercial motor vehicle generally is defined as one operated for business that:

  • has a gross combination weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more
  • is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • carries hazardous materials

Training is not required for those trying to obtain their commercial driver’s licenses. New driver training, when it is given, comes from either the driver’s employer or from a private, for-profit truck driving school. The federal government has never set any across-the-board standards for this training, allowing each state to determine their own. The new regulation, which the FMCSA dropped, was going to address this.

New Truck Driver Training Guidelines in Missouri and Illinois

In Missouri, there are no new truck driver training guidelines. Illinois does have them, which call for at least 160 hours of training :

  • 40 hours of classroom instruction.
  • 16 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction in a training area (not on the road).
  • 16 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction on roads, streets, and highways.
  • 10 hours of observation experience watching from outside the vehicle or riding along
  • 78 additional hours of instruction combining the various modes above

In a news release reacting to FMCSA’s decision to withdraw the training regulations, the vice president and general counsel of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said, “New truck drivers are overrepresented in serious truck crashes, and research studies consistently have shown that basic driver knowledge and driver training are essential aspects of comprehensive driver training.”

The federal training standards for new truck driver training were first proposed in 2007 and were due to be enacted October 1, 2013. Not surprisingly, the new driver standards faced significant opposition from the trucking industry.

If you’ve been seriously hurt in an accident with a large truck, an attorney experienced in conducting in-depth investigations can help determine who is responsible, such as an inexperienced truck driver.