FMCSA mandates truck passenger seat-belt use

FMCSA mandates truck passenger seat-belt use

Drivers, carriers to be held responsible for compliance

Truck passengers are going to have to buckle up. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Tuesday publishes a final rule to amend the truck driver seat-belt mandate (Part 392.16), adding a provision to hold motor carriers and drivers responsible for ensuring that occupants are using the seat belts required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

“Seat belts save lives—period,” said U.S. 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.”

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 Dec. 15 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the American Trucking Assns. 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.

“This rule adds a small burden (with significant potential safety benefits) to the obligations of the carrier and driver,” the notice says.

According to data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 348 non-driver occupants were in the truck at the time the vehicle was involved in a fatal crash and were wearing a lap or shoulder belt. Seventeen of those non-driver occupants were killed. Also in 2013, 122 non-driver occupants of large trucks were involved in fatal crashes and were not wearing a lap and/or shoulder belt; of these, 30 were killed. Sixteen of the 30 were totally or partially ejected from the truck. The fatality rate was five times lower for passengers who wore seat belts versus those who did not.

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 percent) than CMV  drivers (84 percent).  

The rule is set to take effect Aug. 8. Petitions for Reconsideration of this final rule must be submitted to the FMCSA Administrator no later than 30 days from the publication date. The rulemaking docket may be reviewed on the website. 

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