Large Truck-Involved Crash Deaths On The Rise… WHO IS MORE LIKELY AT-FAULT?
Washington D.C. – According to a new report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the number of deaths in large truck-involved crashes rose by 3 percent in 2018 from 2017, but the key question is why?
The alarming new data comes after large truck-involved crash fatalities rose 9 percent from 2016 to 2017 even though overall traffic fatalities fell by 1.8 percent during the same period.
In 2018, the total number of traffic fatalities dipped by 1 percent.
At a time when the trucking industry is increasingly regulated, new on-board safety and crash mitigation systems are being heavily adopted, and electronic logging devices (ELD) are now mandated, many are left wondering why deaths are not on the decline.
More Regulation Needed?
Some believe that despite the current regulatory environment, lawmakers and stakeholders are simply not doing enough to save lives.
In blistering written testimony submitted to a U.S. House of Representatives committee last week, The Trucking Alliance, a safety advocacy group, put forward the reasons it believes crashes are getting worse, and what needs to be done about it.
Steve Williams, Chairman and CEO of Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas, and president co-founder of the Trucking Alliance said the trucking industry simply “has too many accidents.”
“Support progressive safety reforms that make sense for our country and citizens first, our industry second, and our companies third,” Williams urged lawmakers.
What are those “progressive safety reforms?”
The group is calling on Congress and regulators to adopt a litany of new regulations including:
1. FMCSA should require all motor carriers to adopt ELDs without exceptions.
2. The U.S. Department of Transportation should require the use of hair follicle testing in the pre-employment screening process of all commercial drivers.
3. Congress should reject the DRIVE Safe Act which would allow 18 to 20-year-olds to operate big rigs across state lines.
4. Speed limiters should be mandated on commercial big rigs and regulated at no more than 65 mph.
5. Collision mitigation systems should be required on all new commercial semi-trucks.
To learn more about why The Trucking Alliance says it is putting these demands forward, click HERE.
Other safety advocacy groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are supporting the Stop Underrides Act which would require commercial big rigs to be equipped with front and side underrride guards.
IIHS has stated it believes such a requirement would save lives of motorists involved in front and side underride crashes.
Motorists vs Truckers: Who Is More Likely To Be At-Fault?
If regulators and lawmakers are really intent on solving the problem, it would be most effective to address the root causation.
Numerous recent studies have looked at who is more likely to be at-fault in accidents involving large trucks.
A 2013 Michigan Transportation Research Institute study revealed motorists were at-fault in 81 percent of the crashes reviewed.
Just this week, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Ray Martinez, pointed to this well-documented finding in testimony before a U.S. Senate committee.
In prepared remarks before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Martinez attempted to set the record straight about this often misunderstood reality.
“Multiple studies and data indicate most large truck-involved crashes are the result of driver behaviors and errors. It further indicates that other motorists, not professional truck drivers, are more likely to be at-fault.”
Martinez called for conducting an updated large crash causation study.
“Since the last truck crash causation study conducted by FMCSA and NHTSA was between 2001 and 2003, changes in technology have occurred, vehicle safety, and more have occurred affecting driver performance.
A new study will help the FMCSA identify factors that may contribute to the growth in fatal large truck crashes.
Analyzing these factors will drive new initiatives to reduce crashes on our nations roadways.”
Many More Factors To Consider
It would be impossible to adequately cover all the potential factors in this article, but here are a few more to consider.
Ask any trucker and they will tell you, distracted driving is an epidemic.
According to the NHTSA, 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017 alone.
Impaired motorists have always been a serious concern.
However, as the opioid crisis continues to worsen, more drivers on America’s roadways are unfit to make sound judgements behind-the-wheel.
Add to this, the sheer ignorance of some 4-wheeler drivers about a big rig’s capabilities to stop and maneuver.
Then, consider the overall number of vehicles on U.S. roadways.
Rising crash rates, not just involving large trucks, have been shown to correlate with the number of vehicles on America’s roadways.
According to Statista, the number of vehicles registered in the U.S. has risen sharply in the last decade.
In fact, 22 million more vehicles traveled on U.S. highways and interstates in 2017 than did so in 2010.
As more Americans are able to afford to drive a passenger vehicle due to an improved U.S. economy and lower gas prices, congestion problems worsen.
Even still, U.S. lawmakers continue to dither on a long-term funding solution for the Highway Trust Fund.
Add it all up and you have a perfect recipe for problems.
How Can We Start To Solve The Problem?
Perhaps lawmakers should tend to their own failures before tightening the screws any further on truckers.
Perhaps safety groups who want to ratchet up regulations on truck drivers could start by proposing meaningful reforms for those most likely at-fault in large truck-involved crashes.
Perhaps instead of being so quick to blame truckers for the rise in large truck-involved crashes, we could start by listening to them.
Yeah, that could be a good start.