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Big Rigs, Road Safety and the FAST Act in 2016

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On December 4, 2015, the President signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, (aka the FAST Act) into law. The act is a $305 billion funding package designed to improve roads and infrastructure over the next five years. Better roads are a great boost to the economy. As a semi truck accident attorney, the impact that the FAST Act may have on road safety in the trucking industry is most interesting.

According to the Government Accountability Office semi truck accidents have increased year after year. On average 78,000 people sustained injuries on US roads in accidents with semi trucks annually between 2008 and 2012. In the same four-year period, over 4,100 people died in accidents with big rigs.

Interstate trucking is an area with special safety concerns for drivers in Tennessee. In June of 2015, 18 people were injured and six died in a high-profile semi truck accident on I-75. The crash involved a Kentucky-based truck driver who had just started a new job. He had been on duty for 50 consecutive hours. He was cited the day before for careless driving in Florida, where he side-swiped a vehicle.

Under provisions of the FAST Act, trucking safety data like this may no longer be available to the public. This is due to reforms of the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) Program that change the way this information is publicly reported. Previously, trucking companies published safety data consumers could use to inform themselves during a vendor selection process. This information was a good incentive to trucking firms to improve their overall safety record. Without that incentive, it is likely that safety practices and routine maintenance may become more relaxed. This is a key concern for semi truck accident attorneys. Reliable access to data on truck accident patterns is a key part of ensuring swift, just settlements are available to accident victims.

Trucking regulations including changes to the length limit for loads in some states, are impacted by the FAST Act. While trucking firms herald the new regulations as a boost to safety, other industry experts remain skeptical. For a semi truck accident attorney, one safety victory within the FAST Act is the upholding of age limits for inter-state big rig drivers. An amendment to FAST that was not included would have allowed teenage semi truck and bus drivers to cross state lines.

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