Where Is the Oversight for Commercial Trucking Companies?

Where Is the Oversight for Commercial Trucking Companies?A recent exposé from the Boston Globe uncovered a startling amount of information about commercial trucking companies and government oversight – or rather, the lack of government oversight. The article follows a string of truck accidents and tragedies, all of which may have been avoided had these trucking companies been penalized or shut down by authorities. Which begs the question, are our roads and highways really as safe as we think they are?

In their in-depth investigation, titled “Blindspot,” the Boston Globe took a look at the commercial trucking industry. According to their research, over three million truckers travel about 300 billion miles on our nation’s roads and highways every year, describing it as “a population the size of Connecticut’s covering a distance equivalent to more than one million trips to the moon.”

For their research, the authors collected a massive amount of truck accident statistics and information, including:

  • Fatal commercial truck crashes increased by 41% between 2009 and 2017
  • One person died every two hours in a truck crash in 2017
  • Research indicates there are a potential 300,000 undetected drug users driving trucks
  • Trucking Alliance research showed that urinalysis tests were missing 9 out 10 drug users
  • One in five commercial trucks on the road are in disrepair and should be taken off the road
  • New trucking companies have a crash rate of 60% higher than established ones
  • Nearly 17,000 trucking companies were allowed to operate in 2018, even with less than satisfactory safety ratings

The Globe then looked at how and why gaps in state and federal oversight occur.

The case of Westfield Transport, Inc.

After delving into the tragic and fatal truck crash that killed seven motorcyclists and injured two more in 2019, the Globe wondered how a trucking company that accumulated over 60 violations in less than two years could even be permitted to have vehicles on the road.

[Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, the company’s new hire, had his license] suspended seven times in three-and-a-half years by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and he had crashed his car four times. He’d picked up charges for speeding, driving with a suspended license, lying to police about driving with a fake license, and possessing cocaine and heroin. That didn’t stop Massachusetts from granting him a commercial driver’s license in August 2018, which allowed him to drive the heaviest trucks on the road.

It was only Zhukovskyy’s second day on the job when he was involved in the crash, where he allegedly crossed the yellow line and drove into a line of motorcyclists.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for the safety of large vehicles, like commercial trucks, across the country. How, then, can failures as massive as the Westfield Transport tragedy happen? One problem, according to the Globe, is a simple lack of resources:

  • The FMCSA employs around 1,200 people to oversee half a million trucking companies in an industry growing by 30,000 businesses a year
  • The FMCSA has no centralized way to check backgrounds of potential drivers
  • Although new trucking companies must file paperwork with the FMSCA stating they understand and will comply with regulations, they are not made to prove it, and there is no background check or in-person inspection or safety audit
  • The FMSCA can only focus on companies that are continually caught breaking rules, or those with high crash rates, but many trucking companies pass through without notice

“There’s more of a trend right now to take away regulations,” said Robert Molloy, director of the National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Highway Safety. “That limits the ability to make sure everyone is operating in a safe environment.”

If you or a loved one are injured in a commercial truck crash in Virginia, the Richmond injury attorneys at Phelan Petty are here to protect your rights. We help you seek compensation when you are injured by an at-fault driver or trucking company. To set up a free case consultation, give us a call today at 804-980-7100 or use our contact form to leave us a message.