Commercial truck safety is one of the focuses of the National Transportation Safety Board's 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. Truck fleet owners based in California should be aware of the various recommendations that the NTSB makes within it, as they could affect their operations.
California saw the second highest number (after Texas) of large truck crash fatalities in 2017. In fact, all but six states saw an increase in these fatalities from 2009 to 2017, according to federal data. This is despite the fact that the same eight-year period experienced a decrease in miles driven by commercial truckers. The highway safety non-profit Road Safe America has analyzed this data and come to several conclusions.
Every year, traffic accidents continue to take lives in California and across the country. A number of organizations and individuals have come together to form the Road to Zero Coalition, aiming to achieve zero traffic fatalities by 2050. The coalition's spokesperson noted that over 100 people are killed every day on American roadways, a figure that often goes unnoticed despite the significant toll. She noted that it may seem difficult or impossible to achieve the coalition's goals in slightly over three decades to come, but the commitment obtained in terms of resources and technology can have a significant impact on its success.
Drivers in California should know that commercial truck accident rates are going up across the nation. The number of truck occupant fatalities rose from 725 to 841 between 2016 and 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When pedestrians and occupants of motor vehicles are included, the number rose from 4,369 to 4,761.
Serious accidents involving dump trucks and ready-mix concrete delivery trucks are on the rise in California and across the United States according to the Federal Motor Carrier Administration. As a result, federal regulators and traffic safety experts are pushing trucking companies to take steps to reduce driver fatigue and adopt technology that monitors driver performance on the road.
A bill that would help prevent underride crashes from occurring to drivers in California and across the United States has stalled out in Congress. The bill, which is titled the Stop Underrides Act of 2017, aims to reduce the number of underride crashes that occur each year by requiring underride guards on the front and sides of each commercial truck. The bill would also update the standard requirements for underride guards on the back of trucks and require the Department of Transportation to update its standards every five years.
Technological advances in monitoring, data and analytics are driving a surge of safety in the trucking industry. Among the new technologies that trucks are using in California are systems like automatic braking and backup alarms. According to the technology product manager for manufacturer Mack Trucks, that company has been investigating new truck safety technologies since the early 2000s, which is when it started including such features as traction control and stability control in its vehicles.
It's no secret that 18-wheelers pose a unique risk to drivers traveling on California highways. Unlike smaller vehicles, an 18-wheeler needs a tremendous amount of lead time in order to stop. In the best conditions, these large vehicles could need the length of two football fields to come to a complete halt. That distance grows in rain or other wet conditions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for the rules that are meant to ensure commercial trucker safety. One of these rules states that all commercial truckers must take a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of driving. While this may seem like a reasonable rule, it has been the subject of many comments and criticisms by truckers throughout California and the rest of the country.
In September, inspectors with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance performed brake inspections on over 35,000 commercial trucks and trailers. The mass inspection was a part of the group's Brake Safety Week. The result of the safety week showed room for improvement within the trucking industry. Just over 14 percent of the inspected truckers, including many in California, were put out of service for brake violations.