They’re being called the biggest changes to the interstate shipping process in the last decade: The federal government’s Compliance Safety Accountability Program recently went into effect, and looks set to increase the weight of attention that all law enforcement elements give to matters of vehicle safety. Critics of the program note that total accidents involving tractor-trailers are already on the decline; however, advocates of the program emphasize the idea that tightening up the standards will increase the rate of decline and result in further improvements.

The new guidelines do not actually introduce many new rules so much as increase the weight that agencies apply to violations. Failure to tie down cargo did not always result in a mark against a company if no one was injured before it was discovered, for example. Now it will be flagged as a penalty from the get-go. According to those familiar with the case, the ultimate penalty for repeated violations and operating outside safe parameters remains the threat of the company being closed down.

This will also put heightened pressure on customers who hire shipping companies to be more selective in their choices. Customers who choose to pick companies with good prices but very poor safety ratings will be opening themselves to potential liabilities under the new rules. The truckers wouldn’t be on the roads without customers, and if customers hire companies that are consistently demonstrated as operating under unsafe conditions, this provides a certain basis for those plaintiffs who are injured either directly or indirectly in a semi trucking accident.

One of the larger pieces of contention in the new regulations is the hourly reduction that is expected to come with them. The current standards are that drivers can legally drive 11 hours per 24 hour period. The new guidelines are expected to drop this to 10 hours in order to reduce overall driver fatigue issues. This will significantly alter shipping schedules and driver pay, and unlike the rules regarding stricter enforcement of existing regulation, does propose an actual new element.