Increased Safety, Reduced Creativity for Truck Drivers

Natasha Rotstein
Truck drivers using their placards to convey jokes or other unnecessary information may find themselves paying a hefty fine in the upcoming months. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it is going to enforce a requirement prohibiting motor carriers from placing extraneous information on placards and in placard holders. According to Dave Longo, the FMCSA spokesperson, the rule was imposed two years ago, but the effective date was postponed. “Now we are letting truckers know we’re enforcing it (the rule),” he said.

In an effort to protect the emergency responders from being distracted by extra information on the placards, the FMCSA will attempt to enforce the prohibition, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2001, but was never strictly enforced. On U.S. highways in 1999, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 5,362 people died in 451,000 large truck-related crashes. Fatalities included 609 children 0-18 years old, and 758 truck occupants. An estimated 142,000 more people were injured, a third suffering severe brain damage or loss of a limb. These crashes produced estimated economic losses of over $30 billion dollars.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the FMCSA made a commitment to reduce truck-related fatalities by 50 percent in the next 10 years. Enforcing the placard rule is meant to help this effort, Longo said. But the prohibition’s main purpose is to alert emergency responders at the accident scene. “This rule comes into play after the accident,” said Longo. “It’s meant so that they (respondents) are not confused by the signs.”

According to the rule, placards must be strictly reserved for hazards warning, all other displays are subject to a fine of at least $250, but no more than $27,500, per violation. “It’s now in effect, and we wanted to put it out there,” said Longo. Drivers wishing to obtain more information on the subject may contact the FMCSA at 1-888-DOT-SAFE.