Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration elected not to pursue the controversial SFD rule.
Bureaucrats introduced the rule, which was still only in the preliminary phase, in January 2016. Various industry groups opposed the measure, arguing that it was based on seriously flawed data. Under the proposal, the FMCSA would have determined a driver’s fitness based on the results of a fitness hearing, collected driving data, or a combination of both. Even though the agency would have had to secure a supporting study from the National Academy of Science before it took any adverse action, this accommodation was not enough to satisfy many industry insiders.
Given President Donald Trump’s freeze on new regulations, it may be quite some time, if ever, before the FMCSA picks up the SFD rule.
Truck Driver BASICs
In effect, the FMCSA already has a commercial driver benchmark, so the SFD rule was largely moot to begin with. The Driver Fitness Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category tracks truck driver fitness in six key areas:
- Unsafe Driving: Commercial operators with spotty driving records, especially items like reckless driving, speeding, driver inattention, and unsafe lane changes, should probably not be driving, even if the incident did not result in an injury collision.
- Crashes: Whether or not the driver is technically at fault or legally liable for damages, the crash record goes into a nationwide database, so an attorney has ready access to out-of-state crash records that may be otherwise difficult to obtain.
- Hours of Service: Truck drivers cannot be behind the wheel more than 11 consecutive hours or 60 hours in a seven-day period; drivers who exceed these hours are essentially presumed to be dangerously drowsy.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Poorly-secured loads and missing or non-working safety equipment, like mirrors, reflectors, and brakes, are the most common violations in this category.
- Controlled Substance/Alcohol: For BASIC purposes, a BAC above .02 is essentially considered DUI, and operating a vehicle under the influence of any drug is also illegal.
- Hazardous Materials: This category includes unsecure hazardous loads, not following designated routes, and failure to display proper warning stickers.
These infractions apply whether the driver is in a private or commercial vehicle. Even if the FMCSA does not take any adverse action against the driver, insurance companies will raise rates if the driver has a high score, a fact that clearly indicates the driver has a propensity for negligent behavior.
If a driver’s score is too low, either overall or in any one area, the driver is essentially per se negligent, making it easier for the victim/plaintiff to establish legal negligence and liability for damages.
These damages include compensation for both economic damages, such as lost wages, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are available as well, in some extreme cases.
Dangerous truck drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation, contact an experienced car accident lawyer Atlanta GA trusts.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into truck accident and personal injury cases.