A recent Maryland truck accident dramatically highlights not only the deadly consequences of poor enforcement of Federal truck safety standards, but trucking companies’ ho-hum attitudes toward compliance with these standards.
It seems that an accident in Prince Georges County, Maryland that killed one man and injured two others was caused by a tractor-trailer driver with a mind-boggling list of traffic citations: he had racked up tickets in seven states for speeding, careless driving, driving with defective brakes, and – here’s the real outrage – had his license suspended in two states.
It’s bad enough that the trucking company that employed the driver, B. K. Trucking, claimed they did not know his license had been suspended. They said they found no cause for concern when they checked his record. (Trucking companies are legally obligated to check drivers’ backgrounds and make sure they have valid licenses.) Worse, an executive with the company claimed that driving with a suspended license had no bearing on the accident. Just wrong time, wrong place, he shrugged.
Trucking accidents in the U.S. cause about 5,000 fatalities a year, despite the efforts of Congress, government agencies such as the Federal Motor Carriers’ Association, and watchdog groups such as Public Citizen. The major hurdle is getting the cooperation of trucking firms who jack up their profits by skirting safety standards, imposing unreasonable delivery deadlines, and sloughing off background checks that could save lives.