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.
Many people in California recognize the dangers of distracted and drowsy driving. A survey conducted by the American Automobile Association identified distracted driving as a growing threat after 88 percent of respondents expressed their belief that it was becoming more common. Their concern exceeded by far any worries about aggressive driving or drug- or alcohol-impaired driving. The widespread adoption of smartphones is largely seen as the top cause of distracted driving, and people blame the promotion of productivity culture as a source of sleep deprivation among commercial truckers.
Fatigue is a major cause of accidents every year. Nationwide, over 100,000 accidents each year are caused by driver fatigue, according to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reports that 13 percent of all truck fatalities and 28 percent of single-driver commercial vehicle accidents involve fatigue. Companies are working to prevent this problem among truckers.
Federal data shows that the annual number of large truck crash fatalities increased 28 percent between 2009 and 2016. This has led safety advocates to urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to consider mandating crash avoidance systems on all heavy trucks. California motorists may be interested to learn that those pleas have received attention from several members of Congress.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report has revealed a trend in fatal traffic crashes that should be of interest to drivers in California. It appears that while car crash fatalities went down in 2017, large truck accident deaths went up. In fact, they increased by 9 percent from 4,369 to 4,761.
Truckers in California may have been pulled over for a brake inspection during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's Brake Safety Week, which took place in mid-September. Even if they were not, they will want to ensure that their brakes are compliant with federal guidelines. It all begins with a 10- to 15-minute inspection where drivers walk around their truck and physically check their equipment.
Between June 5 and 7, there were 11,897 vehicles taken off of the road as part of the International Roadcheck event. It was held by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and also resulted in 2,664 drivers being removed from service. Drivers were largely taken off the road because of hours-of-service violations or problems with their licenses. In many cases, licenses were either expired or suspended. Some drivers were found to be driving the wrong class of vehicle.