The National Transportation Safety Board issued its annual Most Wanted list for 2017. The wish list comprises easily implemented regulations that could prevent tractor-trailer deaths and injuries.
Safety regulations are important for the well being of truckers, but the general public is the real loser of lax regulations. Occupants and pedestrians account for 84 percent of tractor-trailer collision deaths versus 16 percent of trucker deaths. When the trucking industry claims that regulations will increase costs of transporting goods, which will be passed to the consumer, it is obvious that consumers already bear the costs of not implementing effective regulations.
Truck crash fatalities were 22 percent higher in 2015 than they were just six years earlier. Technology has improved by leaps and bounds in that time. We also have definitive studies that identify the causes of tractor-trailer crashes and yet the death rate continues to increase. Why is this happening? The ineffectiveness of trucking rules is a big reason.
Here are the NTSB’s suggestions for new procedures and devices that would make our roads safer.
- Install collision avoidance technologies today
Collision alerts and automated emergency braking systems are available now, so why aren’t trucking companies using them? Of course there are financial costs involved in implementing these effective technologies, but there are much greater costs in human life by failing to do so.
- Regulate use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs
The laws that govern impairment while driving a commercial vehicle are tougher than passenger cars. This makes sense because operating a large tractor-trailer is more difficult and the consequences of hitting somebody are exponentially worse. However a real gap exists in laws that ban use of over-the-counter and prescription medications. Sure, these substances are legal, but drivers who pop an opiate pain pill or allergy medicine should not be behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.
- Get tired drivers off the road
How are we still talking about this in 2017? Overwhelming evidence supports taking tired drivers off the road. Instead, legislators and the trucking industry claim that hours of service regulations are a burden. Put the public ahead of profits, lawmakers, and demand that truckers get enough sleep to safely operate their big-rigs.
- Promote the medical fitness of drivers
The NTSB recommends rules to enhance the health and medical fitness of truck drivers. In today’s gig economy, many truckers are independent contractors who must obtain their own insurance. Lawmakers need to protect their health care, not only for the truckers’ sake, but also for the public’s safety.
- Ban distractions
Texting has become a primary cause of traffic deaths in all types of vehicles. Last week’s horrific church van accident in which 13 members of a choir group were killed is just the latest example as to why Texas and all states need to ban texting while driving. However cell phones are not the only distraction to truck drivers. Newer tractor-trailers come with all the bells and whistles, including Qualcomm, GPS, electronic logs, and interactive infotainment systems. This equipment shifts the driver’s attention from the cell phone screen to the dashboard.
- Outfit all vehicles with a black box
All planes and most commercial vehicles contain a black box that can withstand extraordinary crash conditions. These data recorders deliver valuable information to investigators to determine the cause of the crash and to develop safety recommendations. It’s time to make these recorders universal in the trucking industry and in all passenger cars and trucks.