The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a mission to reduce the number and severity of large truck- and bus-involved crashes through inspections, enforcement, rulemaking, and research. As part of that mission, FMCSA examined data on large truck accidents to identify factors that may increase the probability that a crash will occur. In a recently updated publication, FMCSA stressed the need to further study several critical issues, which included:
Driver fatigue and hours of service — Although driver fatigue is an oft-cited risk factor, hours of service regulations that attempt to reduce fatigue remain highly controversial and, according to FMCSA, are widely violated within the carrier industry.
Faulty vehicle maintenance — FMCSA spends more than $100 million annually on truck and bus inspections. Yet, it is unclear how effective these inspections are in reducing the rates of accidents. For example, a study conducted by the Michigan State Police showed that 66 percent of large trucks involved in crashes had a pre-crash safety inspection violation.
Actions of passenger vehicles — Motorists are insufficiently aware of safe-driving techniques they must employ when sharing the highway with large trucks.
Driver working environment — FMCSA suggests that working conditions such as wages, method of pay (whether by mile, hour or job), driver’s schedule, and employer type may contribute to truck accidents.
Environmental factors — By this, FMCSA means roadway design and operation. Poor design can increase the likelihood of a crash, whereas properly designed exit ramps, truck-free lanes, or different speed limits for trucks may improve large truck safety.
Driver performance — Human error contributes greatly to truck and car accidents. A driver’s conscious decisions to avoid unsafe maneuvers and regulate truck speed do promote safety, but a driver must also be able to recognize danger and react accordingly.
Vehicle design and load — The longer the truck, the larger the blind spots. Load shifts are a potential hazard. Matching cargo to the proper type of vehicle for hauling is critical.
Truck driver training and experience — It stands to reason that proper training can increase safety, but there is no clear consensus about the areas where drivers may be deficient and what type of training would remedy those deficiencies.
FMCSA cites a need for more data on each of these issues to completely understand the problem. However, as defense counsel for trucking companies, Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, PLLC urges our clients not to wait for additional FMCSA rules and regulations, but to take appropriate measures based on practical, industry experience to reduce accident risk. If you have questions on truck safety, consult a knowledgeable attorney at PF&F by calling 304-344-0100 or contacting our firm online.