As regular readers of our Cornelia, Georgia, Personal Injury Law Blog undoubtedly know, there’s a long and bumpy history between the U.S. trucking industry and safety advocates. A new highway bill before Congress has the industry and advocates in familiar positions on opposing sides.
The bill includes a plan to require automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems and increased liability insurance on large commercial trucks.
The House passed its version of the surface transportation bill earlier this month, while the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last month advanced what Bloomberg Government described as a more moderate version.
The trucking industry apparently leans toward the Senate version, while safety advocates are drumming up support for the House version. The goal of both pieces of legislation is to reduce the number of commercial truck crashes that so often result in fatalities and catastrophic injuries to occupants of passenger vehicles.
The House version includes directives requiring front and side underride guards on trailers. Underride guards are metal bars that prevent cars from going under trailers in crashes. The bill also requires underride guards on single-unit trucks.
The Senate bill, critics say, is “falling short” with its less stringent mandates.
Safety advocates are still urging lawmakers in both legislative bodies to require AEB in all new cars and trucks. Bloomberg reports that both bills exempt small and medium-sized trucks from the requirement.
Study shows value of AEB
Advocates point to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that found that automatic emergency braking coupled with a forward-collision warning system could prevent 40 percent of collisions in which a large truck hit another vehicle from behind.
Bloomberg Government reports that members of the trucking industry argue that more development is needed to make AEB safe and effective for use in 18-wheelers.
The House version of the highway bill also includes a provision to raise commercial truck liability insurance from $750,000 to $2 million. The boost would help pay for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages in big rig collisions.