Drivers in West Virginia may particularly fear accidents involving large trucks. The very size and force of the vehicles can threaten serious personal injuries for others on the road when something goes wrong. And while most truck drivers are very safe, there are approximately 475,000 large trucks involved in accidents each year in the United States.
The Department of Transportation has withdrawn a proposed rule that would have established the requirements for sleep apnea testing for truckers in West Virginia and around the country. The withdrawal allows the current system, which provides medical examiners the authority to decide which truckers have to receive sleep apnea screenings, to continue.
West Virginia drivers may have been impacted by the Brake Safety Day that took place on May 3. This unannounced check caused nearly 2,000 trucks to be sidelined in 33 states and 10 Canadian provinces where inspections took place. A total of 9,524 inspections took place with 1,989 trucks being taken out of service. Of those trucks taken out of service, 1,146 were related to brake violations.
There was an alarming increase in the number of fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers and buses in West Virginia and around the country in 2015 according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Statistics indicates that 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in deadly crashes in 2015, which is a worrying 8 percent increase over the 2014 figures according to the federal safety watchdog.
West Virginia truck drivers who receive their commercial driver's licenses after Feb. 7, 2020 will be trained under new regulations that have almost three years in which to take effect. The rule took effect on June 5 after a five-month delay as a result of an order by President Trump to review regulations.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has planned another 72-hour International Roadcheck spree of inspections. West Virginia truck drivers will be subject to compliance checks, enforcement and educational reminders. To prevent the loss of cargo during transit, inspectors will focus heavily on load securement in this year's event.
Despite the anti-regulatory push that is currently ongoing in the Trump administration, truck drivers in West Virginia and around the country may still expect new rules to be put in place for drivers who have sleep apnea. This is because the Supreme Court of the United States denied a writ of certiorari that was filed by a trucker who sued his carrier for asking that he undergo testing for sleep apnea.
Tests conducted by a nonprofit safety organization indicate that lives could be saved in West Virginia and around the country if semi-tractor trailer operators were required to install side-mounted underride guards on their vehicles. Lawmakers are considering adopting regulations that would mandate the installation of rear-mounted underride guards on large trucks, but the IIHS test results indicate that side-mounted guards offer the same kind of safety benefits.
Autonomous trucks may soon be a common sight on the roads of West Virginia, but government agencies and industry groups have yet to decide how they should be regulated and how current rules should be modified to accommodate them. These issues were discussed during a session hosted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance on April 24, and a number of trade and road safety advocacy organizations made their feelings known to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration representatives in attendance.
West Virginia commercial truck drivers face challenges when navigating heavy traffic, but rural roads appear to present the greatest hazards. According to a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 60 percent of fatal truck accidents happened on rural roads in 2015 compared to only 25 percent on interstate highways.