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Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP | Nov 6, 2015

Legislation Would Put Motorists and Mass Transit Riders at Risk

Categories: Auto Accident

A federal recently bill introduced in Congress, if enacted, would put American motorists and mass transit riders at risk.

The “Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015,” proposed by Representative Bill Shuster - Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure - would allow trucking companies to continue operating with low levels of insurance coverage for years to come and would shield the availability of information about which trucking companies are the most dangerous.

Nearly 4,000 people are killed each year in truck-related collisions. But instead of focusing on improving safety, this bill would allow trucking companies with poor safety records to hide this information from the public. Currently, freight brokers and shippers can assess the safety records of trucking companies and thus avoid hiring the least careful truckers, but under this bill the safety data would be made confidential for an indefinite period.

People who have been injured or lost loved ones in crashes caused by reckless trucking companies are often stuck paying their own bills because they cannot hold the trucking company or the shipper fully responsible. Instead of protecting dangerous trucking companies, our legislators should act to protect the driving public and ensure that dangerous trucking companies can be held accountable.

The reality is that motorists injured by negligent truckers are often hindered from efforts to hold the company accountable and get their medical bills paid. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration has not updated its insurance requirements for trucking companies for more than 30 years, but recently initiated efforts to do so. Yet this proposed legislation would add new roadblocks to the agency’s effort.

The bill as introduced also harms those who are injured and those who have lost loved ones in a mass transit crash or incident. These individuals deserve answers and should be able to hold the transit agency accountable when justified. However, this bill would potentially limit the discovery and admissibility in court of important evidence, thereby negatively impacting the ability of injured parties to hold a transit agency accountable for wrongdoing. This in turn could allow the transportation agency to continue unsafe practices that should have in fact been exposed.

Congress should focus on protecting the traveling public rather than giving protection and secrecy rights to the trucking and public transit industries. If this bill should pass, it would deal a severe blow to the safety and rights of the traveling public.