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Proposed trucking regulation changes could endanger Illinois drivers

New federal legislation would permit truckers to rest less between workweeks and pull longer trailers, which could heighten the risk of truck accidents.

In 2012, tractor-trailers contributed to 9,739 crashes in Illinois, according to the state Department of Transportation. Over 1,600 of these crashes caused injuries, and 81 claimed people's lives. Given the steep toll that these large truck crashes take, critics have called for stronger trucking industry regulations. Unfortunately, federal lawmakers are currently considering relaxing certain key regulations. If successful, these changes could have huge effects on roadway safety in Illinois.

Dangerously long trailers

According to The Baltimore Sun, the legislation that the U.S. House of Representatives is now considering would allow trucks to haul two 33-foot trailers. This represents an increase over the trailer length limitations that are currently observed in Illinois and the majority of other states. If this legislation succeeds, it would overrule local laws and allow trucks to pull longer trailers in all 50 states.

Critics worry that this change could leave innocent motorists at greater risk for accidents. According to The Morris Herald-News, the executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police has expressed concern about the accident risk associated with longer trailers. These trailers require more stopping distance, and they also have larger blind spots. Additionally, longer vehicles are typically less stable and more difficult to control.

More tired truckers

The Baltimore Sun states that the legislation also seeks to reduce the number of hours that truckers are required to rest between workweeks. The legislation would formalize the current suspension of a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation. This change could result in an increase in fatigue-related truck accidents.

The regulation in question required truckers to end each workweek with a rest period that included two overnight breaks. These nocturnal rest periods had to extend from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Besides ensuring that truckers logged adequate sleep between workweeks, this rule effectively limited truckers to 70-hour weeks. With the rule suspended, truckers can theoretically work up to 82 hours per week.

This potential increase in driving hours may further raise the risk of fatigue-related accidents. When truckers were allowed to drive 82 hours per week during the presidency of George W. Bush, more of them reported nodding off at the wheel. About half of the drivers who were surveyed in 2006 stated that they had fallen asleep at the wheel at least once during the prior 12 months.

Other adverse changes

The bill would additionally prevent lawmakers from increasing the amount of insurance that trucking companies are required to carry. The current minimum amount of coverage, which is $750,000 per incident, hasn't been adjusted since 1985. If this requirement is not updated, many victims of severe accidents may be left without adequate compensation.

Even if this bill fails to pass, truck accidents remain a sizable threat to drivers today. In crashes that involve mistakes or reckless behaviors on the part of truck drivers, remedies may be available to accident victims. Anyone who has been harmed or lost a loved one in an accident that a truck driver caused should consider discussing these remedies with a truck accident attorney.

Keywords: truck accidents, Illinois

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