A series of horrific accidents, some of them in Georgia, led to pressure for stricter transportation safety regulations. However, safety advocates are concerned they are being rolled back in the era of Donald Trump.
A report on WNYC noted one of the crashes that was a catalyst for new rules occurred in June 2015 in an Interstate 75 construction zone in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
An 18-ton tractor-trailer going about 80 miles-an-hour failed to slow down despite numerous warning signs and crashed into eight vehicles. Six people died and another four were injured.
The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges in 2018.
In response to serious crashes like this, the Obama administration proposed new rules requiring that new heavy trucks were fitted with potentially life-saving software that would control speed limits in 2016.
However, in a new climate of deregulation ushered in by President Donald Trump the rule has been delayed indefinitely by the Transportation Department.
A review by the Associated Press of the department’s rule-making activities in Trump’s first 12-months in office found at least a dozen safety rules developed under the Obama administration were removed, repealed, delayed or placed on the back burner.
Many of these rules were opposed by big business. Safety rules concerning industries like trucking are opposed by powerful industries. Political appointees running the agencies charged with formulating the rules often come from the industries they regulate, AP reported.
At the same time, no new safety rules have been adopted under the new administration.
Rules sidelined in recent months include:
- Measures to equip cars and light trucks in the future with vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems to prevent collisions.
- Annual inspection of commercial bus operators
- The requirements of railroads to operate trains with at least two crew members.
Trump has promised to rid government departments of unnecessary rules. However, the failure of many safety rules to progress alarms campaigners.
The AP report noted the rule requiring speed-limiting software on new trucks would have economic benefits, according to a department estimate prepared two years ago. Last year the Transportation Department estimated it would save almost 500 lives a year and create a net saving of $475 million to nearly $5 billion a year.
The fatality figure is almost half the 1,100 deaths annually in heavy truck crashes on the roads of America with limits of 55 mph or higher.
The proposal may have addressed a second problem: Most tires for heavy trucks are not designed to travel over 75 mph, but some states speed limits of 80 mph.
The backtracking on these safety rules alarmed campaigners and family members who lost loved ones in big rig crashes like the one in Tennessee. In Georgia, a trucker who killed five people in a work zone was recently jailed for two years.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a trucking crash, it’s vital to get experienced legal representation. Call the Law Office of Michael West at (404) 913-1529.