WASHINGTON — Despite being ordered twice by Congress to come up with training requirements for commercial truck drivers, the Transportation Department has yet to do so, leaving Americans sharing the road with big-rig operators who spend only 10 hours in a classroom before hitting the highways.
On Thursday, a group of safety advocates and the Teamsters union sued the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in federal court, saying the agency had dragged its feet on the long-overdue rules, breaking deadlines since 1993, most recently last year.
“There’s just no excuse anymore,” said Henry Jasny, general counsel at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, one of the groups filing suit. “This should be basic stuff. People are dying because of the lack of training out there.”
While overall automobile fatalities in the United States have been down in recent years, deaths and injuries involving large trucks have been rising. Fatalities were up 4 percent in 2012, and injuries by 18 percent, for a total of about 4,000 deaths and roughly 70,000 injuries. According to Transportation Department data, an additional 200,000 accidents with large trucks caused damage but no injuries.
Mr. Jasny said new drivers spend barely more than a day in the classroom for training after they complete the relatively simple process of getting a commercial driver’s license.
“They pass a written test, drive a truck around the parking lot for 10 minutes to get...