How are Truck Drivers Ruled Unsafe?

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for keeping our highways safe from commercial vehicle accidents. A big part of this role focuses on the trucking industry - the big rigs, the big rig drivers, and the companies that employ them - as truck crashes kill thousands of people every year in the United States.

What does the government look for in determining unsafe trucking companies and unsafe truck drivers in its effort to reduce fatal truck crashes?

Safety Measurements for Truck Drivers and Truck Companies

Leading causes of catastrophic truck accidents are negligent driver behavior and unsafe trucks. So the FMCSA developed a set of criteria under those two broad headings when measuring trucking safety. Called the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC), the safety measurements are:

  • Unsafe driving histories of truckers - documented instances of speeding, inattention, or reckless driving
  • Tired driving - the weekly hours a driver can be on the road are federally regulated to guard against fatigued truck drivers
  • The health and fitness of a truck driver - drivers of most commercial rigs must have a medical certificate on file with state and federal governments. They must also be properly trained.
  • Drug or alcohol use by a truck driver - this includes illegal drugs and the misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • The maintenance of the truck - a big rig with bad brakes, for example, poses extreme dangers for all those on the road. A nationwide truck brake inspection event held in September 2015 found brake violations that were so serious in almost 20 percent of the trucks in Missouri that the trucks were pulled from the road.
  • Dangerously loaded cargo on a truck - this includes improper handling of hazardous material
  • Crash histories - the FMCSA reviews patterns of truck accidents by both the drivers and the truck carriers

Roadside Inspections Uncover Unsafe Truckers and Trucks

The government collects this information through roadside inspections of tractor-trailers and drivers, as well as truck crash reports provided by the states. The severity of inspection violations are weighted on a scale from one to 10, with one having the lowest crash risk and 10 the highest.

The most severe trucker safety violations include:

  • Use or possession of dangerous drugs
  • Driving a commercial truck without a commercial driver's license
  • Truck driver violating the hours of service rules

Truck accidents are also weighted, with those involving fatalities, severe injuries or the release of hazardous material deemed the most serious.

Despite these safety measures, truck drivers and trucking companies still act negligently, putting others at great risk. How the FMCSA judges the safety of truckers and carriers illustrates just how many factors can be in play when a catastrophic trucking accident occurs.

If you were seriously injured or had a family member killed in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, an attorney experienced in handling truck crash investigations can identify all responsible parties and pursue just compensation for your losses.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.


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