In working to improve road safety, federal agencies are considering if equipping trucks with speed limiters could decrease the severity of crashes and resulting injuries and fatalities. Some trucking organizations and private citizens, however, claim there is a lack of evidence the devices mitigate hazardous incidents and suggest they actually might cause more problems.
On March 21 of this year, a commercial truck driver was stopped by Illinois State Police. The driver was eventually cited for driving under the influence of alcohol, possession of an intoxicating beverage while on duty or driving, and for failing to retain driver logbooks for the previous seven days. He was also cited for improper lane usage and for illegally transporting alcohol. The driver's blood alcohol content was measured at .308. The legal limit for a person with a Commercial Drivers' License is .04. Due to the driver's previous record, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an effective shutdown order for the driver.
A new proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration could change the training necessary to get a Commercial Driver's License. The proposal was released today and will be open for public commentary for the next 60 days. The FMCSA could then submit the rule to the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget for approval, or it could extend the comment period to gather further feedback. Once the OMB and DOT approve the final rule it will be published in the Federal Register. The measure would go into effect three years after the publication date.
Roadside inspections are conducted to ensure that commercial trucks and truck drivers are complying with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Hazardous Materials Regulations. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, roadside inspectors are facing undue burdens in performing their duties. The CVSA wrote a letter to the FMCSA about concerns that the number of exemptions handed out to drivers and trucking companies is complicating the roadside inspection process.
Among the ten entries in the 2016 Most Wanted List of safety improvements put forth by the National Transportation Safety Board are four that potentially address the ability of truck drivers to operate their vehicles safely. The following goals are all known issues in the commercial trucking industry:
Fatigue is a serious issue for many drivers. Lack of sleep can cause a driver to make a number of driving errors, including drifting into the other lane and failing to take evasive action when traffic demands. For truck drivers, economic pressure can push them toward driving in a fatigued state. Hours-of-service regulations exist to encourage drivers to get adequate sleep and avoid truck accidents caused by sleepy drivers. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has been commissioned to conduct a federal study into the impact of regulated sleep schedules.
Commercial trucks in the United States come equipped with underride guards. Underride guards are the metal pieces that hang down the back end of a box trailer. The purpose of these guards is to reduce the chances of a fatality if a passenger vehicle strikes the back of the truck. Without the guard, the back of the trailer would strike many vehicles at windshield height.
The design of a tractor trailer is the result of many things. Federal regulations require certain safety equipment. Fuel efficiency and driver comfort play a role in the design of truck cabs. The basic structure, however, is the result of a standardization method known as containerization.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced a plan to evaluate forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) technology. Depending on the result of that evaluation, the NHTSA may move to require FCAM devices on commercial trucks. The Truck Safety Coalition, Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Road Safe America joined together to petition the NHTSA for such a rule last February. The Department of Transportation granted the petition this week.
From 1974 to 1995, the National Maximum Speed Law banned states from setting speed limits above a certain level. From 1974 to 1988, that meant the top speed limit was 55 miles per hour. From 1988 to 1995 it was 65 mph. After 1995, Congress once again allowed states to set their own speed limits. The change had significant implications for the trucking industry and for tire manufacturers which may still not be understood 20 years later.