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Is state regulation of big-rig safety uniform across the country?

If you’re a commercial trucker operating a big rig that is hauling a load across the country, it is not inconceivable that you could be stopped for a random safety inspection in more than one state.

Say that such an outcome ensues, for example, in both New York and Pennsylvania. Evidence indicates that, while authorities in one of those states might give your vehicle a cursory look and wave you back onto the road, authorities in the other might cite you for multiple violations.

That evidence is not in short supply. It is culled from various sources in a media analysis of large truck accidents and safety enforcement that cites a massive “patchwork system” of big-truck regulation that results in widely varying outcomes for inspected vehicles.

In fact, that media probe refers tellingly to the “United States of various standards,” a depiction that at once denotes irregularity in safety checks and enforcement and an inconsistency that can -- and does, say some commentators -- undermine safety on state and national roadways.

And it can hardly be argued that safety needs to be improved in the commercial trucking industry: Reportedly, close to 390,000 accidents involving large trucks occurred across the country between 2009 and 2013. Since 2009, an estimated 14,000-plus people have died in the United States in big-rig crashes.

The lack of regularity across state lines regarding safety checks and enforcement is pointed to as a fundamental catalyst driving such dismal and alarming numbers. It is noted that, although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration establishes uniform standards to be applied nationally, each state is essentially given carte blanche to determine what will be emphasized -- or not -- within its boundaries.

What that means is that brakes might be a major inspection item in one state, with lights being emphasized in another.

More consistency is needed, say advocates pushing for a more stringent and uniformly applied safety standard across the country.

Until that happens, they note, too many commercial trucks operating on roads and highways will continue to be unsafe.

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