New rules enacted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on December 10, 2015, will have a far-ranging effect on big-rig drivers across the country. These new regulations require drivers of large commercial trucks and buses to record their hours of work electronically. Paper logs have been required for nearly eight decades, but critics of these recordkeeping methods have noted that it is relatively easy to doctor paper documentation or to keep two sets of logs to avoid limits on driving time. Figures compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that 18-wheeler trucks were involved in nearly 4,000 fatality accidents in 2013. For victims of these accidents, the services of a qualified Houston 18 wheeler accident attorney can provide added assurance of a fair settlement in or out of the courtroom setting. Added Protection for Texas Drivers The new electronic logging requirements will require trucking companies and independent owner-operators to install devices that can automatically track miles, movement, hours and locations for trucks and buses. The NHTSA is allowing a grace period of two years for full implementation of these rules in the working environment. Additionally, trucks and buses manufactured prior to 2000 are exempt from these new requirements. According to the NHTSA, the changes are expected to save as many as 26 lives per year by reducing driver fatigue for operators of large commercial trucks. Semi-Trailer Trucks Pose Real Risks for Other Vehicles The extreme size and weight of 18-wheeler trucks can present added dangers for other cars and trucks on the road. The 2013 NHTSA figures indicate that of the 3,906 fatalities involving semi-trailer trucks in 2013, 2,834 victims were drivers or occupants of other vehicles. Cyclists and pedestrians accounted for 439 other deaths. Only 691 of the fatalities associated with 18-wheeler vehicles actually affected drivers and passengers in these large commercial trucks and buses. These statistics demonstrate clearly the level of risk posed by semi-trailer trucks to smaller vehicles on the road and the need for stricter regulation of these large buses and trucks on Texas highways. Texas Statistics Paint a Grim Picture In 2014, the state of Texas recorded 33,061 crashes involving commercial vehicles and 588 total fatalities as a result of these accidents. Recent accidents involving tractor-trailer trucks in Houston include the following:
- Two separate tractor-trailer accidents resulted in traffic snarls on December 4 and December 5, 2015. An 18-wheeler overturned on the I-45 ramp leading to the eastbound North Loop on December 4; one day later, another truck overturned and spilled its load to block a ramp on Beltway 8.
- A trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety was seriously injured when a tanker truck struck and flattened his patrol car on October 16, 2015.
- A woman was killed on October 27, 2015, after she slowed to avoid debris in the road on Highway 225 and an 18-wheeler struck her vehicle and crushed it. The highway was closed for six hours to extricate the smaller vehicle and clear the accident.
These represent only a fraction of the 18-wheeler accidents that occur every year across the state of Texas. The new NHTSA regulations are intended to make motorists safer by reducing the number of wrecks attributable to driver fatigue on the part of commercial truck and bus drivers. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a collision with a large truck, enlisting the services of a professional Houston 18-wheeler wreck lawyer can help you recover damages and receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses. Your Houston personal injury lawyer will work with you to determine the causes of your accident and to hold transportation companies financially responsible for negligent policies that could lead to driver fatigue and accidents on Texas streets and highways.