Dallas Truck Accident attorney examines truck inspection exemptions and how they could affect number of truck accidents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the government agency that is responsible for regulating and ensuring the safety of all commercial vehicles. But the agency has increasingly been granting truck inspection exemptions as well as allowing truck carriers to bypass other regulations. While these exemptions may be legal, it is a troubling trend that could lead to more truck wrecks on the road.
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“For most people, the FMCSA is a mystery agency that oversees the trucking industry,” stated Dallas personal injury attorney Amy Witherite of Eberstein & Witherite,LLP. “But the FMCSA’s truck inspections are vital in keeping truck carriers from violating safety protocols that would otherwise have a devastating effect on the number of truck accidents. So when we start to see all these exemptions being granted, you get concerned that perhaps too many trucking companies are being given a pass, and what the consequences will be for motorists.”
Understanding the FMCSA Truck Safety Inspections
Any examination of commercial truck inspection exemptions must begin with understanding what the FMCSA looks for when conducting these inspections.
Per a helpful article on the Industry Safe website titled, The Six Levels of DOT Inspections, every commercial vehicle that weighs more than 10,001 pounds must be inspected every year.
There are six levels of inspection, which include:
- Level I – North American Standard Inspection — Inspector checks documents such as truck driver’s license and medical clearance. Inspector also checks safety belts, turn signals, lighting system, wheels and tires.
- Level II – Walk-Around Inspection — Inspector walks around commercial vehicle and examines the undercarriage.
- Level III – Driver-only Inspection — Inspector examines driver documents in greater depth and detail than in Level I.
- Level IV – Special Inspection — One-time inspections that focus on one aspect of a commercial vehicle, such as the brakes.
- Level V – Vehicle-Only Inspection — Inspector examines vehicle without driver present.
- Level VI – Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments – Inspector examines radiological shipments to ensure safety compliance.
Clearly, inspectors are responsible for many different factors when it comes to truck safety, which is why exemptions can be fraught with danger.
CVSA Fires the Opening Shot
The issue of FMCSA exemptions came into the forefront early last year when the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) –– a nonprofit membership organization that is focused on ensuring that commercial motor vehicle safety inspections are uniform throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico –– issued a strongly-worded statement expressing its concern about the number of truck inspection exemptions granted by the federal agency.
In a piece titled, CVSA: Too Many Exemptions published on the Go By Truck Global News website, the CVSA sent a strongly-worded letter to the FMCSA about the burden the agency was placing on its inspectors by allowing them to grant so many exemptions.
Part of the letter –– which was signed by Collin B. Mooney, Executive Director of CVSA –– read, “With so many exemptions, beyond those within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, it is possible that roadside inspectors will no longer accurately enforce the regulations or may stop enforcing certain regulations all together.”
What that means is that the CVSA is worried that by granting so many exemptions, the FMCSA risks confusing its inspectors to such an extent, that they will simply stop doing their job in frustration.
The implications are scary, because poorly inspected commercial trucks pose a clear and present danger to other motorists.
Moreover, the type of exemption that truck carriers request has a great deal to do with the fears expressed by the CVSA.
Recent Exemption Request
An article in Overdrive –– a trucking industry information site –– titled, Carrier Asks FMCSA for Exemption From Short Hauler Log-Keeping Rules, Blames Detention Time, illustrates the kind of issue that concerns the CVSA.
A truck carrier named Farrugio’s Express with headquarters in Bristol, Pa, sought an FMCSA exemption from having to maintain a logbook regarding its drivers hours-of-use.
The exemption would have applied to truck drivers who remained within a 100-mile radius of Bristol, and exceeded the maximum 12-hour rule of continuous driving.
Approximately 12 percent of Farrugio’s Express drivers met that criteria, and the carrier cited wait times at rail yards and piers as the reason these operators exceeded the FMCSA’s maximum hours-of-use rule.
The carrier also indicated that it had installed GPS tracking devices in all its trucks, and that it would conduct at least four safety meetings throughout the year and maintain a “Satisfactory” safety rating, if granted the exemption. The FMCSA granted the Farrugio’s Express request.
“Hours-of-use are already a hotbed of controversy,” stated Witherite. “So any truck carrier that wants an exemption because its drivers are exceeding those hours on a regular basis is a red flag for me, despite the fact that the company’s drivers are operating within a 100-mile radius of their base. We’ve seen through multiple studies that truck drivers who exceed hours-of-use regulations are much more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, or become so tired that they make bad decisions that lead to catastrophic truck wrecks.”
Factors such as mechanical failure and driver exhaustion are major contributors to truck accidents, but they can be prevented through rigid inspection protocols.
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Eberstein & Witherite, LLP
Email: [email protected]