Members of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) did not waste any time voicing their concerns over the latest findings reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on large truck fatalities.
On March 2, the NHTSA released statistics concerning vehicle crashes, and the agency found 4,965 people were killed in large truck crashes across the country in 2020 (the last year that figures were available). An additional 146,930 individuals sustained injuries.
In response, the Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and the Parents Against Tired Truckers, immediately issued a press release, calling on Congress and President Biden to take “comprehensive steps” to address the large number of truck accident fatalities.
Along with tightening up the process concerning new drivers and individuals aiming to earn their first commercial driver’s license, the agency made several recommendations that could be considered significant changes in the way the country’s trucking industry is regulated.
How to Reduce Large Truck Accidents
There are several different causes of Ohio truck accidents. The Truck Safety Coalition has trucking recommendations to help make the roads safer and reduce truck accident fatalities. Some of the changes they would like to see include:
Require Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) on all commercial motor vehicles:
An AEB system is centered around sensors designed to scan the road ahead of the truck. If the sensors detect the truck is approaching danger or is at unsafe proximity to another vehicle, it will warn the driver, and the brakes will be automatically engaged.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an AEB system can reduce a large truck front to rear crash by 41 percent. Fortunately, a provision to study and potentially mandate AEB on new CMVs did make it into the new legislation signed into law in 2021.
Require side and front underride guards on all commercial motor vehicles:
An underride crash between a large truck and a passenger vehicle occurs when the smaller vehicle collides with the truck and slides underneath. Because of the two vehicles’ difference in size and weight, passengers in the smaller vehicle often sustain major injuries, including severe head trauma, brain injuries, loss of limbs, and even death. Often, in an underride crash, the smaller vehicle slides under the truck, bypassing the car’s “crumple zone,” which means the airbag deployment sensors do not become engaged to release the cushioned protection.
In addition, bicyclists and pedestrians are also vulnerable to underride interactions because of their size and the lack of protection. While large trucks already operate with some underride protections, the TSC would like federal lawmakers to require commercial vehicles to come with additional energy-absorbing side and front underride guards or protections as well.
Require the use of speed limiters in all commercial motor vehicles (CMV): A speed limiter is a computerized device designed to stop a commercial trucker from exceeding a specific speed limit. Installed in the engine, it works with sensors monitoring the speed, and if the driver is about to drive over the maximum speed set in the device, it will block fuel flow and prevent the truck from moving to a higher speed.
Congress has proposed legislation concerning speed limiters several times in the last ten years. However, an official mandate concerning CMV speed limiter use has not been issued.
Terminate the Teen Driver Apprenticeship Program: The apprenticeship program, which was part of the 2021 Infrastructure Bill, allows apprentice drivers between 18 to 21 to drive commercial trucks across state lines during their probationary period, as long as an experienced driver is in the passenger seat.
Many people in the trucking industry, including members of the American Truckers Association (ATA), consider the program a solution to the current shortage of drivers nationwide (last fall, the ATA estimated the industry needed up to 800,000 more drivers). However, the TSC members believe inexperienced teen drivers are not worth the risk and point to data showing teen drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in a fatal crash and 3.5 times as likely to be involved in any police-reported crash.
Raise the commercial motor carrier minimum insurance requirements: While it is an understatement to say there have been changes in the last 40 years, the fact is the government has kept the minimum liability insurance requirement for motor carriers at $750,000 since 1985.
Being involved in a large truck crash can be catastrophic. Victims of these types of crashes may endure years of suffering along with lost wages, hospital stays, surgeries, physiotherapy, and various other necessary past and future medical care. The costs can add up to millions of dollars, and insurance minimums should reflect this.
Eliminate the Fair Labor Standards Act Motor Carrier Exemption: The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees to receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week, but truckers have been exempt from the overtime pay guarantee since the 1930s.
The TSC believes if the exemption is removed, not only would the industry experience an uptick in new workers due to the prospect of better pay, but also the roads would be safer. TSC’s position on removing the exemption is in large part because paying drivers by the mile instead of by the hour “…tempts drivers to drive as far and as fast as possible.”
Sharing the Road with Large Trucks in Ohio
One out of eight traffic fatalities in Ohio is a result of a collision with a large truck. It is important drivers use caution whenever driving near working commercial vehicles to stay safe from getting into a truck crash.
Here are some tips to stay clear of unsafe situations:
- Do not pass a truck when it is backing up or is about to back up.
- Trucks have deep blind spots behind them; therefore, do not ever tailgate a truck.
- Make sure to stay at a consistent speed when passing a truck, and don’t pull in front of a truck unless you can see the entire front of the truck in your mirror.
- Pay attention when truck drivers need to swing wide while making a turn or are in the process of turning. Keep in mind that they can not see a car directly behind them or beside them, so give them plenty of room.
The attorneys at Murray & Murray have a long-standing history and experience handling truck accident cases. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in an Ohio truck accident, contact us at 419-664-3711 or online for more information.
Partner at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A.