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Will Harsher Penalties Reduce Trucking Accidents?

Posted on September 10, 2019
Will Harsher Penalties Reduce Trucking Accidents?

Stricter enforcement of the law and harsher penalties may deter companies and commercial truck drivers from behaviors that place motorists at risk. The number of large truck accidents remains significantly high and many are the result of truck drivers and trucking companies violating laws designed to prevent dangerous behaviors and negligence.

Common DOT Violations

The most common violations are also those that are among the most common contributing factors to large truck accidents. These include violating hours of service regulations, not possessing the required qualifications or licensing of the vehicle, as well as failing to test drivers for drug or alcohol use. 

Other common violations include failure to properly maintain the vehicle or secure the necessary inspections, unsafe handling of hazardous cargo, and failure to properly maintain records regarding the vehicle’s repair history.

Penalties Keep Pace with Inflation

In November 2018, the DOT announced the implementation of new legislation that requires DOT to increase penalties to keep pace with the rate of inflation. The following penalties for 2019 are worth noting.

  • Driving while suspended or under revocation – $24,017
  • Falsification of records – $12,695
  • First offense alcohol violation – $3,174
  • Second offense alcohol violation – $6,348
  • Violating hazardous material regulations – $81,993
  • Operating after getting declared unfit – $191,316

In all, there are more than 60 different penalties the DOT pursues. Drivers and truck operators who refuse or fail to pay assessed penalties can face additional penalties and legal consequences.  

Impact of Penalties

Over the past 5 years, the amount of fines collected by DOT has skyrocketed 200%. Stricter enforcement of regulations has most certainly increased the penalties levied against truck drivers and their employers, but it has not led to a decrease in the number of large truck accidents or fatalities.

Indeed, it appears that the collection of penalties and enforcement of regulations is having absolutely no impact on the industry or the risk to the public. For now, the trucking industry is merely absorbing DOT penalties as a cost of doing business. Even as the cost of penalties continues to rise, it is unlikely that harsher penalties will increase public safety or reduce the behaviors that are causing serious and fatal trucking accidents.