For Immediate Release: October 16, 2015

House Surface Transportation Bill a Giveaway for Dangerous Truck Companies; Would Hide Safety Records From the Public

Contact:
Ben Somberg
Email:
ben.somberg@justice.org
Phone:
202-965-6645

Washington, DCThe following is a statement from American Association  for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen in response to the introduction today of the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015” by Representative Bill Shuster, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:

“This bill is a giveaway to the most dangerous trucking companies. Nearly 4,000 people are killed each year in truck-involved crashes. But rather than improving safety, this bill lets dangerous truck companies hide their safety records from the public.

Currently, freight brokers and shippers can assess the safety records of trucking companies and avoid hiring dangerous carriers, but under this bill the safety data would be made confidential for an indefinite period.

Other drivers on the road are the ultimate losers in this bill. People who have been injured or lost loved ones in crashes caused by reckless truck companies are often stuck paying their bills because they can’t hold the trucking company or the shipper fully responsible. This bill would allow truck companies to continue operating with small insurance policies for years to come, while at the same time leaving brokers and shippers without information on which carriers are the most dangerous.

This bill is a step backward and must be fixed to protect the driving public and ensure dangerous truck companies can be held accountable.”

Background on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015:

  • Motorists injured by negligent truckers are often stymied in holding the company accountable and getting their medical bills paid. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) has not updated the insurance requirements for trucking companies for more than 30 years, but has recently initiated an effort to do so. This bill would add new roadblocks to the agency’s effort.
  • Truck companies’ safety records are evaluated through Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (“CSA”) scores that allow the shippers who hire them to choose safer carriers. CSA scores are updated monthly and include information such as crash history, citations for speeding or improper lane change and hours of service violations. The program provides details of what to look for when hiring carriers, identifies potentially unsafe carriers and prioritizes them for enforcement interventions. A Congressionally-mandated analysis of the underlying data used in CSA scores, published by FMCSA earlier this month, found that the existing data standards are “sufficiently reliable for FMCSA to identify groups of high-risk carriers.”
  • When people are injured or lose loved ones in a mass transit crash or incident, they want answers and to hold the transit agency accountable. This bill would potentially limit the discovery and admissibility in court of any evidence, contingent upon a future study, thus negatively impacting injured passengers’ ability to hold a transit agency accountable for any wrongdoing. This could allow the transportation agency to continue unsafe practices that should have been exposed. Congress should not needlessly commission studies which may place limitations on discovery and admissibility of safety information or evidence for any public transportation entity.

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The American Association for Justice works to preserve the constitutional right to trial by jury and to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org