A controversial topic at many industry functions I have attended is whether trucking companies should ban or limit cellphone use by their drivers while behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle. This controversy was further illustrated in a recent article by David Wren entitled Lawsuit Settlement Could Lead to More Cellphone Bans by Trucking Firms. The article discusses a settlement agreement reached in a personal injury lawsuit, where the personal injury plaintiffs alleged the commercial vehicle operator was distracted because he was using a hands-free device to talk on his phone at the time of the crash.
We provide important legal developments, summaries and analyses impacting those involved in the trucking industry and the defense of trucking-related claims and lawsuits.
In May 2016, the United States Department of Labor published the long-awaited revision to regulations that will change the threshold for when an employer must pay an employee for overtime. The effective date of the new regulations is December 1, 2016, causing dramatic changes for employers. Within the first year of implementation, the update will automatically entitle over 4 million workers to overtime protections, unless employers update the positions to comply with the changes. The impending change will require employers to undertake workforce analysis and planning, including budget forecasting, to determine the best and most cost-efficient way to adapt to the changes to come.
A recent article by Seth Clevenger published in Transport Topics explores ways executives can improve fleet safety. Several fleet executives spoke at the 2016 ALK Transportation Technology Summit about how their investments in technology have significantly increased safety and reduced claims costs at their companies. The installation of onboard video cameras, collision mitigation systems, departure warning systems, speed limiters and collision avoidance systems were all cited as way to improve fleet safety and decrease litigation costs.
On March 10, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requested comments regarding proposed rulemaking related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and its effects on transportation safety. OSA causes restless sleep, which can lead to deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory. While all truck drivers are screened for respiratory issues, FMCSA’s notice could lead to OSA-specific screening requirements. FMCSA’s medical review board recommended using a body mass index (BMI) of 33 as a screening indicator for OSA, which is notable in light of the Nebraska District Court’s recent decision in Parker v. Crete Carrier Corporation.
A recent article by Sean Kilcarr published in Fleet Owner explores why one director of safety believes inward and outward facing cameras will be absolutely vital tools for commercial drivers going forward, outweighing any privacy or other concerns drivers and company owners may have. Jeff Wood, director of safety for Martin Transportation System (a 1,000-truck, 1,400-driver fleet long-haul, regional, and local transportation for the “Big 3” automakers) contends truck drivers are getting blamed in accidents when they have no fault.