The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that passengers riding in large commercial trucks will be required to use seat belts whenever the vehicles are operated on public roads in interstate commerce.
Effective August 8, 2016, this final rule revises Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and holds motor carriers and drivers responsible for ensuring that passengers riding in large commercial trucks are using seat belts.
“Seat belts save lives—period,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Whether you’re a driver or passenger, in a personal vehicle or large truck, the simple act of wearing a safety belt significantly reduces the risk of fatality in a crash.”
In 2014, 37 passengers traveling unrestrained in the cab of a large truck were killed in roadway crashes, according to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of this number, about one-third were ejected from the truck cab.
FMCSA’s most recent Seat Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Drivers Survey, published in March 2014, found that commercial motor vehicle passengers use seat belts at a lower rate (73%) than CMV drivers (84%). Federal rules have long required all commercial drivers to use seat belts.
According to the pre-publication copy of the final rule, the change is based on a 2013 petition submitted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). The petition referred to data available from the agency’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) that indicated 34% of truck occupants killed in fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts.
In responding to the December 15 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the American Trucking Associations generally supported the passenger seat-belt requirement, but objected to FMCSA’s plan to hold carriers responsible “as they have no practicable way to monitor it.” While acknowledging that a carrier may have some leverage with its drivers, ATA claimed it would have none over other occupants of a CMV.
But, as the notice explains, passenger car drivers have long been held responsible for passengers’ seat-belt use, and the rule simply extends the principle to commercial vehicle drivers. And, under Part 390.11, carriers have long been held responsible for their drivers’ regulatory compliance—even though the carrier is not able to physically supervise the driver’s performance of many of these tasks.
“Using a seat belt is one of the safest, easiest, and smartest choices drivers and passengers can make before starting out on any road trip,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “This rule further protects large truck occupants and will undoubtedly save more lives.”
Click here to read a copy of the final rule.