BITCO Insurance Companies
Release Date: June 8, 2016
The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a new rule, effective August 8, 2016, requiring passengers in property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to use the seat belt assembly whenever the vehicles are operated on public roads in interstate commerce. This rule holds motor carriers and drivers responsible for ensuring that passengers riding in the property-carrying CMV are properly restrained in seat belts. As most states follow the FMCSR, this rule will likely be enforced for intrastate CMV operations as well. Many states already require that all passengers of any vehicle be restrained in a seat belt.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires vehicle manufacturers to install driver and passenger seat belts in large trucks. FMCSA already requires drivers to use their seat belts. However, the FMCSRs were previously silent on the use of seat belts by passengers in trucks. This final rule requires that every passenger in a property-carrying CMV use a seat belt, if one is installed. The term “passenger” is defined as any occupant and would include instructors, evaluators, or any other motor carrier personnel who might be seated in a property-carrying CMV.
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 NHTSA. Of this number, approximately 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 percent) than CMV drivers (84 percent).
While there were some comments to the rulemaking that motor carriers should not be held responsible, the FMCSR, in 49 CFR 392.60, already prohibits the transportation of anyone without specific written authorization from the motor carrier. The motor carrier, therefore, has knowledge of each occupant of the property-carrying vehicle and can easily require that authorized passengers buckle up. While we would like to think that motor carriers already require passengers to use seat belts in their safety policies, this may require a change in some motor carrier policies.
As far as holding the driver responsible, it is expected that the driver could observe whether the seat belt was in use before the vehicle is operated on a public road and remind the occupants that seat belt usage is required if he or she notices that a passenger has not fastened or has unfastened the seat belt.
For sleeper-berth operations, FMCSA currently does not require the occupant of a sleeper berth to wear a restraint in a moving CMV, but that issue is under review.
The final rule can be accessed at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-06-07/pdf/2016-13099.pdf.
The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.