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Fatal truck accident leads to investigation, out-of-service order

The gap between passing a law and enforcing it is often challenging. For example, passing a law against texting while driving is one thing. But actually enforcing it is quite another.

Similarly, the lengthy debate about new hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truckers was not an end in itself. It made sense only to the extent that federal safety regulators are prepared to enforce it.

This week, in a Texas case, those regulators took action to show that they are serious about enforcing not only HOS rules, but other important rules as well.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) moved to shut down a Texas trucking company for several violations of safety rules.

One of the violations was failing to make sure that the company's drivers were in compliance with HOS regulations. The other violation concerned failure to perform sufficient testing of drivers for the use of drugs or alcohol.

The Texas company against which FMCSA took this action is REDCO Transport. REDCO is a general freight hauler with 112 trucks in its fleet.

Last month, one of the company's trucks reportedly caused a fatal truck accident. Three people were killed in this accident on the interstate in Louisiana.

It was this accident that caused FMCSA to initiate an investigation. And that investigation led to yesterday's out-of-service order against the company.

Out-of-service orders are an important tool that government regulators can use to protect road safety from companies that continually fail to meet standards. FMCSA has issued these orders against 10 trucking companies this year.

The agency has also taken action against seven truck drivers.

It is unclear, however, why it took a fatal accident before FMCSA began the investigation that led to the out-of-service order against the trucking company involved in this case.

To be sure, it is always important to get unsafe operators who disregard rules off the road. But if possible it would be better to do that sooner rather than later, before lives are lost or people injured in preventable truck accidents.

Source: Overdrive, "Agency shuts down Texas fleet for disregarding hours of service regs," September 24, 2013

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