The International Roadcheck should be a familiar event to commercial truck and bus drivers in Mississippi. This nationwide inspection spree, conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, takes place every year over the course of 72 hours, and its purpose is to ensure compliance with driver- and vehicle-related safety guidelines. Those found breaking the rules are handed out-of-service orders.
Commercial trucks number over 15 million on the roads of Mississippi and the rest of the U.S., and when they're involved in an accident, the results can be fatal for other drivers. A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has analyzed the causes of truck accidents and broken them down into four basic categories: Decision, recognition, performance, and non-performance.
Despite the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals previously dismissing their lawsuit, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) recently filed a motion asking the court to reconsider their suit. The suit argues that a recent rule change by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding sleep apnea screenings for tractor-trailer drivers violated federal law. Sleep apnea rules affect drivers across Mississippi given that fatigued driving is a major contributing factor in truck accidents.
Truck drivers in Mississippi and around the country may have more flexible hours of service if a rule proposed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is adopted. The group has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to change its rules for the 14-hour daily clock and allow drivers to skip the mandatory half-hour break in the first eight hours. It has also asked the FMCSA to allow drivers to stop the clock for up to three hours.
A bipartisan proposal for a bill called the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 is making its way through Congress. If passed, it will mandate that all commercial trucks install side underride guards. Drivers in Mississippi may be aware that underrides are a frequent outcome of truck accidents. In 2016, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 295 car occupants were killed in side underride crashes, and 238 died in rear underride crashes.
The individuals in Mississippi who are in the most danger from large truck accidents are the drivers and passengers of smaller vehicles. Whether or not car drivers are taking every precaution while driving, they are susceptible to being injured if the operator of the truck is distracted or driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Because of the vast differences in the size of the vehicles, there is a higher chance that serious injuries or death will occur.
Mississippi truck drivers who have sleep apnea may carry higher risks of causing accidents. Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to stop breathing multiple times per night, disrupting their sleep, may cause truck drivers to be fatigued and drowsy while they are behind the wheel. In August, the Department of Transportation announced that it was withdrawing a rule that would have provided guidelines for when drivers should be referred for sleep apnea screening.
Mississippi motorists may have seen large trucks with spikes on their hub caps. These spikes are ornamental and make the trucks and their drivers look more aggressive. They also have the potential of causing more accidents if they extend out too far.
Mississippi truck drivers and their employers should be aware that a rule that would have established requirements for sleep apnea screening was officially withdrawn on Aug. 7. The rule would have given medical examiners, drivers and carriers the criteria needed to refer a driver to an in-lab apnea test as well as protocols for the treatment of the sleep apnea.
Mississippi drivers may be interested to learn that the number of large trucks involved in fatal accidents increased in 2015, according to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These are the most current numbers available.