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There are no national standards for training new semi-truck drivers.

Here’s why that’s a problem.

Several years ago, I represented Angelah, a young girl with a mild traumatic brain injury.

She had been in a terrible crash.

Her mother was driving. The afternoon was rainy, and the road was wet.

A truck driver failed to take into consideration roadway hazards and struck the family vehicle.

He hadn’t been driving a semi-truck for very long—he was still in training. He wasn’t driving carefully, especially for the weather conditions.

Brain injury case-semi-truck crash Washington

If that young trucker had more experience, he might not have made this tragic decision. He might have slowed down.

I don’t think that the semi-truck driver meant to cause a crash.

I don’t think he climbed into the cab that day thinking his driving could cause a child’s serious head injury.

I don’t think he would make the same bad driving decisions if he could live that day all over again.

I do think it’s likely that this crash had a negative impact on his life, as it did on Angelah’s life.

And I think that more training would have improved his driving skills.

Semi-truck experience matters 

New truckers and trainees are statistically far more likely to be involved in a collision.

Yet, there are no national standards for training new semi-truck drivers before they hit the road.

In March 2016,  FMCSA proposed a national standard for trucker training, a rule that would require 30 hours of training for a Class A commercial license. That’s the license for drivers operating tractor-trailers over 26,000 pounds … like the truck in Angelah’s devastating crash.

The proposed rule would include a minimum of 10 hours operating a tractor-trailer on a practice driving range.

“Well-trained drivers are safer drivers, which leads to greater safety for our families and friends on our highways and roads,”

– U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

30 hours of training is not an onerous standard.

This issue isn’t especially contentious.

Even the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), an organization known for opposing federal mandates for trucking, cites driver training as a shared top priority with the federal agency.

In Angelah’s case, the trucking company eventually offered to settle her brain injury claim. It was a fair settlement, one that has allowed her to get the ongoing care she needs.

The final rule on national trucker training standards is expected soon.


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