FMCSA Audit Could Create New Challenges for PI Attorneys

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may soon be facing an audit of its programs and oversight capabilities that could uncover some serious flaws in the agency’s regulation of the trucking industry. Since many personal injury lawyers rely on the FMCSA’s regulations and ratings to establish when trucking companies may have been negligent, any problems that are uncovered in this audit could have significant repercussions on how truck accident lawyers build and litigate their cases in the future.

The audit, which has yet to be approved by the U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, has been recommended by officials at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). This recommendation was specifically made in the wake of four fatal truck accidents that collectively killed 25 people and injured 83 others within the past year.

The NTSB Investigation

According to officials at the NTSB, “safety deficiencies and noted red flags had been present [at the responsible trucking companies] prior to the crashes.” While the red flags went unnoticed by FMCSA officials in some cases, in others, the FMCSA had noted the red flags but failed to take action to rectify them. In fact, in their preliminary investigations, NTSB officials had found that, in some cases, trucking companies that had been operating poorly and had been violating numerous federal regulations were given “Satisfactory” ratings and allowed to keep operating – and to ultimately be responsible for causing fatal truck accidents.

Some of the specific red flags that were uncovered by the NTSB’s investigations into the four trucking companies responsible for the above-mentioned fatal accidents included:

  • Hours-of-service violations (including falsifying trucking logs and keeping two logs)
  • Use of tires not rated for highway operation
  • Defective brakes
  • Failing numerous roadside vehicle inspections

These findings have led NTSB officials to question the “thoroughness and quality” of the FMCSA’s compliance reviews and to question the agency’s methods of only focusing on a discrete sector of trucking carriers’ operations.

Is the FMCSA Living Up to Its Mission?

In one of our recent blogs[1], we raised similar questions regarding the FMCSA’s performance and whether it’s living up to its stated purpose of “saving lives and reducing injuries by preventing and minimizing the severity of truck and bus crashes.” While that discussion had found that the FMCSA’s efforts had led to a reduction in the number of fatal truck accidents that have occurred over the past decade, those numbers were generated by the FMCSA – not a third party – and, as a result, could be suspect.

As a possible FMCSA audit threatens to take a tough look at the agency’s policies and practices, Case Funding will continue reporting on how this audit could affect federal trucking regulations and oversight, as well as personal injury lawyers and their clients.

Topics:  Audits, FMSCA, NTSB, Safety Precautions, Trucking Industry

Published In: Personal Injury Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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