Over a four year period of time when car accident death rates declined by three percent, the rate of fatalities in truck-involved accidents rose 17 percent. According to New York Times, many of the people killed in these truck-involved accidents were not in the truck, but were motorists in other vehicles or were people walking and biking on the roads.
Despite rising death rates in truck accidents, many lobbying groups in the trucking industry have pushed for safety rules to be relaxed. The trucking industry advocates have already checked some of the regulatory rollbacks off their wishlist and now have a long list of additional reforms they would like to see passed. U.S. News indicates there is a strong likelihood the trucking industry groups will soon get their wish.
One regulation the trucking industry took aim at was a rule designed to keep tired truckers off the road so drowsy driving accidents could be prevented. Some trucking lobbying groups fought the rule for years, before congress finally suspended its enforcement by attaching the suspension to a must-pass spending bill. Gone was the requirement that truckers who had driven for their maximum weekly hours take a mandatory 34-hour rest break including two overnights before getting back on the road.
Some trucking lobbying groups now want some other changes as well. For example, they want to make trucks longer by adjusting the maximum allowable length of trailers from 28 to 33 feet. They want to make trucks heavier by lifting the maximum weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 90,000 pounds. They want to prevent states from passing rest break rules that go beyond federal requirements, and they want the federal government to change the rules so 18-year-olds can drive trucks instead of having to wait until they are 21.
The changes on this wishlist are very likely to happen. The election of Donald Trump as president, along with the election of a Republican House and Republican Senate are going to usher in a new era of unprecedented regulatory reform. The suspension of the rest-break rule had to be added to the must-pass spending bill so it would not be blocked by Democrats, but Democrats are going to be largely unable to block new regulatory changes going forward over the next several years. This means lawmakers who are friendly to trucking industry lobbyists and who have campaigned on eliminating job-killing regulations are probably going to move swiftly on getting rid of trucking safety rules and on loosening regulations and requirements for truckers.
Hopefully, the reduction in regulations will not cause the roads to become even less safe and will not lead to a further increase in truck accident fatalities.... but it seems like more tragic crashes involving large trucks is a much more likely outcome.