Wall Street Journal: Longer, Heavier Trucks Are a Serious Hazard

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

Wall Street Journal: Longer, Heavier Trucks Are a Serious Hazard

My own experience informs my serious concerns with making trucks even longer.

The public should urge their lawmakers to oppose efforts by FedEx and UPS to increase the national twin-trailer standard to 33 feet from 28 feet per trailer (Letters, Feb. 6). Granting this corporate giveaway will permit longer trucks on our roads, which will erode safety and adversely affect our nation’s infrastructure.

My own experience informs my serious concerns with making trucks even longer. In August 2010, my wife, Susan, was killed and my sons, Peter and Matthew (who is now permanently disabled), were injured in a crash after a truck driver operating a triple tractor-trailer fell asleep and crashed into the back of their vehicle.

Unfortunately, crashes in which a truck rear ends a passenger vehicle have skyrocketed, increasing 82% from 2009 to 2015, as calculated by the Truck Safety Coalition. Introducing trucks that require an additional 22 feet to brake will exacerbate this trend.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, any reduction in truck-vehicle miles traveled would be wiped out within one year by increases and shifts in freight transportation. The study also found that permitting double 33s would incur a one-time cost of $1.1 billion to strengthen and replace more than 2,000 bridges. This finding dispels the claim that the “trucking industry foots the bill.”

Instead of demanding longer trucks that require a greater distance to stop, companies should look to technologies, such as automatic emergency braking, speed limiters and underride protections to enhance safety, protect our infrastructure and improve their bottom lines.

Ed Slattery

Lutherville, Md.

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/longer-heavier-trucks-are-a-serious-hazard-1518467727 

Published: Feb. 12, 2018 3:35 p.m. ET

 

TSC Comments on Regulatory Review

These comments are filed jointly by the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and our volunteers, who are the family and friends of truck crash victims and survivors seeking truck safety advances, in response to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT, Department) request for comments on the Department’s review of “its existing regulations and other agency actions to evaluate their continued necessity, determine whether they are crafted effectively to solve current problems, and evaluate whether they potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.”

Our comments will focus on the following regulations and agency actions:

Finalize Rulemakings:

o   Automatic Emergency Braking

o   Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

o   Rear and Side Underride Guards

Fully Implement Final Rules:

o   Electronic Logging Device

o   Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Reintroduce Rulemakings:

o   Increasing the Minimum Insurance Levels

o   Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing

Modify Rulemakings:

o   Entry Level Driver Training

 

Finalize Rulemakings:

Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is a technology that has been proven, both by companies and other countries, to make roads safer as it can reduce the number of crashes truck drivers are involved in and mitigate the severity of a crash. NHTSA should finalize this rulemaking immediately.

This technology is no longer “new.”  The European Union mandated AEB on large trucks back in 2012, requiring all new trucks to be equipped with it by 2015. In the United States, motor carriers have been using AEB long enough to establish beyond question its effectiveness and reliability.  For example, one trucking company saw their number of rear-end collisions decrease by nearly 80 percent from 2003 to 2015 after equipping their fleet with an active system of collision avoidance and mitigation.

Additionally, Con-way (now a part of XPO Logistics) performed an internal study to determine the extent to which a suite of safety technologies (AEB, electronic stability control (ESC), and lane departure warning) installed on the trucks in its fleet reduced the frequency of various types of collisions.  This study collected data over a 30-month period on approximately 12,600 trucks.  The results were clear and compelling: trucks equipped with the suite of safety systems had a lower crash rate and frequency of engagement in risky driving behavior compared to vehicles without such systems; these trucks exhibited a 71 percent reduction in rear-end collisions and a 63 percent decrease in unsafe following behaviors.

Thousands of American trucks nationwide have been equipped with AEB for nearly a decade, and AEB has been required on large trucks by the European Union since 2012 and it took effect in 2015. In other words, most of the major truck manufacturers have begun including this technology in the trucks that they sell in the European market or in the cars that their company produces.

The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) has stated that they “strongly recommend that all vehicles (light and heavy) be equipped with forward collision warning and mitigation braking technology.”  As you know, rear-end crashes constitute some of the most horrific and catastrophic crashes imaginable, and they occur much too often.  We believe that equipping all new trucks with AEB is the responsible and reasonable thing to do.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) own estimate include that forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems can prevent thousands of crashes each year. This rulemaking needs to be finalized now and should apply to all trucks. With every year that implementation of this technology is delayed, hundreds, if not thousands, will unnecessarily die and even more will suffer serious injuries.

Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

The FMCSA and NHTSA must finalize this life-saving, cost-effective rule without further delay.

Data from the Department of Transportation shows that speeding-related fatalities account for nearly one out of three traffic fatalities in the United States each year. That coupled with the facts that truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities have steadily increased unabated since 2009, does not bode well for safety on our roads. Finalizing a final rule requiring all trucks to have a speed limiter set at 65mph or less will help reverse the aforementioned trends.

The agencies have delayed progress on this commonsense rulemaking more than 20 times since they granted a petition to initiate rulemaking back in 2011. To make matters worse, the Administration’s recently released Unified Agenda identified the rulemaking as a long-term action item, meaning that the agencies require a minimum of 12 months to produce their next action. In other words, this is yet another delay.

The delays, however, are ludicrous for several reasons. For one, speed-limiting devices have been built into most large trucks dating back to the 1990s, according the agencies’ joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Thus, there is no capital expense required to simply turn on and use them on trucks with this technology. The NPRM also notes that the heavy vehicle speed limiter rule will produce a net benefit of more than $1.1 billion and can save up to an estimated 500 lives each year. Given these compelling numbers, combined with the fact that Ontario saw at-fault speeding-related truck crashes fall by 73 percent and fatalities in all crashes involving big rigs dropped 24 percent after mandatory speed limiter technology took effect there, we cannot comprehend the agencies inaction and lack of urgency.

As the NTSB notes in a recent report, Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles, mandating heavy vehicle speed limiters is commonsense and cost-effective solution that will prevent injuries and save lives in crashes involving large trucks.

Rear and Side Underride Guards

The federal government should require all trucks and trailers to be equipped with energy-absorbing rear and side underride guards to protect car occupants from underride crashes. Truck underride crashes can be catastrophic because the car goes under the trailer, bypassing the crumple zone and airbag deployment safety features; in severe collisions, passenger compartment intrusion occurs.

The safety benefits of rear underride guards are proven and well known. In fact, seven of the eight leading trailer manufacturers have developed rear underride guards that qualify for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) ToughGuard rating, which greatly exceeds the proposed federal standard by preventing underride crashes at 100, 50, and 30 percent overlaps at 35 mph. It is expected that all eight leading trailer manufacturers will be ToughGuard certified by December 31, 2017.

The NTSB has continually issued multiple recommendations for improved rear underride guards and for side underride protection systems. In addition, the NTSB identified the need for improved data collection, including vehicle identification numbers to better evaluate trailer design and the impact on safety.

NHTSA reported that large truck rear impacts comprised 22 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015.  IIHS crash tests demonstrated that the rear underride guards mandated for trailers by NHTSA in 1998 performed poorly, and that there are available underride guards that far exceed the proposed force requirement by up to 70 percent.

NHTSA has also reported that large truck side impacts comprised 17 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015.  One reason why collisions with the sides of tractor-trailers are hazardous is that there is a large area of the trailer where underride may occur during these collisions. In addition, bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to side underride interactions because of their size and the lack of protection.

Unfortunately, since granting petitions for rulemaking back in 2014, NHTSA has taken no action, aside from delaying, the NPRM for rear underride guards on trailers and the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for rear guards for single unit trucks. Additionally, the agency has taken no action to evaluate side underride guards.

Fully Implement Final Rules

Electronic Logging Device (ELD)

TSC opposes any attempt to delay this life-saving regulation or to allow exemptions for specific industries or special interests.

Updating the methodology by which drivers record their hours of service is long overdue. ELD technology will reduce the ability of bad actors to skirt federal regulations by modernizing the practice of logging hours. This mandate will also protect truck drivers from being coerced to exceed the hours they are allowed to operate because ELDs automatically record driving time, and therefore truck drivers cannot circumvent compliance by simply writing down false hours. It is important to note that this regulation makes no changes to the existing Hours of Services rules.

Additionally, the ELD mandate will enhance law enforcement officers’ capacity to enforce HOS restrictions and expedite the process of reviewing a truck driver’s logbook. This potential benefit of the ELD rulemaking would be blunted, however, if the agency allows exemptions as it would create confusion for law enforcement officers. The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will save not only time, but also it will produce a benefit or more than $1 billion, according to the FMCSA.

After working for more than two decades to produce a final rule that requires large trucks to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices, the Truck Safety Coalition opposes any further delay or exemptions to the mandate. Instead of focusing on the costs of this regulation, which cost less than replacing a few truck tires, we should all be more concerned about truck driver fatigue – a preventable problem that kills and injures far too many each people year. There has been ample time for members of the industry to transition from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices, especially considering that there are a plenty of companies from which they can purchase an ELD device.

The ELD Final Rule will save an estimated 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from large truck crashes each year. We cannot fathom why anyone would direct an agency, whose mission is to promote safety, to consider a delay that would result in an estimated 130 fatalities and 2,810 injuries over five years, which was recently requested.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule will greatly enhance safety on our roads as employers will be able to access information regarding the testing history of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers applying for jobs and identify drivers who have previously violated alcohol and drug tests.

CMV drivers who have violated drug and alcohol testing are currently a major risk to everyone with whom they share the road. Under the soon-to-be-replaced system of self-reporting, many employers were unable to access the necessary information to avoid hiring problem drivers. The establishment of this new drug and alcohol clearinghouse that requires employers to check current and prospective employees will be a significant step forward for safety.

All too often, a history of repeated drug and alcohol violations is not discovered until a catastrophic crash occurs and a comprehensive investigation ensues.  So long as this rule is fully implemented without delay, this will no longer be the case.

Reintroduce Rulemakings:

Increasing the Minimum Level of Insurance

 The withdrawal of a long overdue ANPRM to increase the minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers was extremely disappointing, and the agency should reintroduce this rulemaking at once.

The fact of that matter is that the minimum level of insurance required by trucks per incident has not been increased since 1980. It has not been adjusted for inflation or, more appropriately, for medical cost inflation. The results of these decades of inaction are devastating. Families must face the financial impact of under-insured truckers along with the emotional and physical destruction. The failure to raise the required amount of minimum insurance allows chameleon carriers to enter the market, with no underwriting, and simply close down and reincorporate under a new name following a catastrophic crash.

Yet, this issue not only impacts survivors and families of truck crash victims; it affects all taxpayers. Insurance is supposed to address the actual damages caused. When there is an insufficient payout, families are forced to declare bankruptcy or rely on government programs after being financially drained. The costs of healthcare, property, and lost income for all parties involved in a truck crash can greatly exceed $750,000 per event, and all of these costs are much higher today than they were in 1980. The unpaid costs are then passed on to taxpayers. In other words, maintaining the grossly inadequate minimum privatizes profits but socializes the costs of underinsured trucking.

Moreover, if the mandate for minimum insurance is to remain a significant incentive for carriers to operate safely as Congress intended, it must be updated to reflect the current realities of the industry. Because the minimum insurance requirements have not kept pace with inflation, the $750,000 per event has become a disincentive for unsafe motor carriers to improve and maintain the safety of their operations. Additionally, raising the minimum amount of insurance will motivate insurers to apply a higher level of scrutiny in determining which motor carriers they insure.

What is even more frustrating and confusing about this decision to walk away from this rulemaking is that the DOT fully acknowledges that $750,000 is an insufficient amount to cover one person’s life. The Department uses a value of statistical life of $9.6 million. This is a figure the DOT defines “as the additional cost that individuals would be willing to bear for improvements in safety (that is, reductions in risks) that, in the aggregate, reduce the expected number of fatalities by one,” and updates to account for changes in prices and real income. Clearly, the DOT has determined that not only is a single life worth more than $750,000 but that it benefits the American public to ensure that these values are indexed to inflation.

The FMCSA’s decision to forego pursuing a commonsense approach to enhancing safety on our roads and leveling the playing field in our nation’s trucking industry is deeply troubling, but unfortunately, it is yet another data point to demonstrate the agency’s dereliction of duty and lack of direction. If the agency fails to reintroduce this rulemaking, we call on the Secretary of Transportation to take immediate action to increase the minimum insurance requirement and to index it to inflation, which she is empowered to do under the law. This way, the amount will be increased periodically and apolitically.

Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing

 The FMCSA’s withdrawal of a rulemaking that would establish requirements for sleep apnea screening is another demonstration of the agency’s denial of data, and it is a serious error that should be remedied as quickly as possible.

Sleep apnea is not a made-up affliction; it is a scientifically proven sleep disorder that causes a brief interruption of breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea are at risk of becoming fatigued as their body and brain are deprived of oxygen and the restorative effects of sleep. Undiagnosed, this chronic disorder can be debilitating to a driver’s health and make him or her a danger to others on the road. It affects approximately five percent of the general population, and up to 50 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Policymakers at the FMCSA need to do more to eradicate fatigue as a factor that causes truck crashes, including preventing truckers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) from getting behind the wheel and driving tired because of their sleep disorder. In fact, truck drivers who fail adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea are five times more likely to get involved in a crash than a truck driver who is on treatment.

Modify Rulemakings:

Entry Level Driver Training

 The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training rule for commercial motor vehicle drivers was a major waste of time as the this final rule does not include a minimum number of hours required behind the wheel.

After languishing for 25 years following a mandate from Congress, TSC was hopeful that the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), comprised of law enforcement, safety advocates, and industry, would be able to produce a negotiated rulemaking that included a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours. After a number of meetings, a proposed rule was negotiated that included both a theoretical curriculum and a 30-hour minimum of BTW training. Unfortunately, the years of waiting and the participation of the ELDTAC committee was for naught. The final rule does not mandate a minimum number of BTW training hours, severely blunting the potential safety benefits of it. It should.

Without a minimum BTW training hours requirement, the agency will not be able to ensure that commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants have had actual time behind-the-wheel to learn safe operations of a truck. Requiring a set number of hours to ensure that a licensee is sufficiently educated in his or her profession is common for far less deadly and injurious jobs, such as barbers and real estate salespersons. Even other transportation-related professions, like pilots, are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to complete more than 250 hours of flight time – their version of BTW training. Unfortunately, the FMCSA opted for a Pyrrhic victory that allowed them to check the box for finalizing one of their many unfinished, overdue, and much-needed rulemakings instead of producing a final rule that would do as their mission states: “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

Given the overlap between trucking companies and training programs, and an industry turnover rate above 90 percent, the FMCSA is naïve to think that a BTW training standard based solely on a driver-trainee’s ‘proficiency’ will result in needed training and practice behind the wheel. The driver-trainees will be forced to complete BTW training at the pace of the training school they attend or the trucking company that runs it, which can lead to CDL mills.

Conclusion

Over the past year, it has become clear that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the current administration have no intention of producing meaningful mandates that will “solve current problems,” and every intention of removing regulations for the sake of removing regulations. The Administration has made no mention of the 4,317 people killed in 2016, or the fact that the number of truck crash fatalities has increased by 28 percent since 2009. The President has not even nominated someone to run NHTSA and his nominee for FMCSA administrator has yet to be confirmed. The DOT has not offered a single solution to address the rising number of truck crashes or the fact that driving a truck is constantly one of the deadliest jobs in America. Yet, this administration has already withdrawn two rulemakings and delayed four rulemakings – all of which could have improved truck safety. We hope the DOT will do more to promote safety in the public interest rather than catering to special interests.

Docket DOT-OST-2017-0069

Comments Submitted 12/01/2017

Regulatory Review | 82 Federal Register 45750, October 2, 2017

Letter to House T&I Committee Regarding Hearing on “Emerging Technologies in the Trucking Industry”

December 11, 2017

The Honorable Sam Graves, Chairman

The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Graves and Ranking Member Norton:

The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) and Road Safe America (RSA) thanks Members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit for holding the important roundtable, “Emerging Technologies in the Trucking Industry.” We look forward to collaborating with Members of the Subcommittee, safety advocates, technology companies, and leaders in the trucking industry to determine the benefits of requiring currently available driver assisted technologies in commercial motor vehicles. We will also remain committed to working with all parties to create an oversight framework that ensures safety is the top priority in the development of future autonomous vehicle (AV) policies.

TSC and RSA recognize the potential safety benefits of AV technologies in trucking, especially at a time when truck crashes continue to climb. Since 2009, truck crashes have gone up by 45 percent, resulting in a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries. From 2009 to 2016, the number of truck crash fatalities increased 28 percent, totaling 4,317 fatalities. There are technologies, like automatic emergency braking and speed limiters, which have been proven effective by numerous motor carriers. Unfortunately, these regulations have not yet been finalized. This must change. These technologies can prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives, all while enhancing the efficiency of motor carriers in a cost-beneficial manner.

Current Technologies

We are excited by the potential of AV technology to prevent and mitigate thousands of crashes in which human error is a factor, but want to remind lawmakers of their responsibility to ensure that the process for testing and developing these technologies in commercial motor vehicles does not jeopardize public safety. As we continue to discuss future autonomous vehicle technologies, we urge Members and policymakers to finalize rulemakings requiring automatic emergency braking (AEB) and heavy vehicle speed limiters on all class 7 and 8 trucks.

Mandating speed limiters be set on all such trucks is a commonsense step to improving truck safety that will produce more benefits than costs. Since the 1990s, speed limiter technology has been built into all such truck engine control modules, which eliminates the cost of installing this life saving technology. Additionally, motor carriers will see a return on investment by reducing their speed-related, at-fault crashes – some of the deadliest and costliest types of truck crashes. In fact, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation found that speed-related, at-fault truck crashes dropped by 73 percent after Ontario’s truck speed limiter mandate took effect. Moreover, the Ontario study debunked a common claim that requiring speed limiter settings on trucks would lead to an increase in crashes due to speed differentials.

Automatic emergency braking is not a new technology either. The European Union mandated AEB on large trucks back in 2012, requiring all new trucks to be equipped with it by 2015. Here in the U.S., motor carriers have been using AEB long enough to establish its effectiveness and reliability. In fact, one trucking company saw their number of rear-end collisions decrease by nearly 80 percent from 2003 to 2015 after equipping their fleet with an active system of collision avoidance and mitigation.

Another large trucking company, performed an internal study over a 30-month period on approximately 12,600 of its trucks to determine the extent to which a suite of safety technologies (AEB, electronic stability control (ESC), and lane departure warning) installed on the trucks in its fleet reduced the frequency of various types of collisions. The results were clear and compelling: trucks equipped with the suite of safety systems had a lower crash rate and frequency of engagement in risky driving behavior compared to vehicles without such systems; these trucks exhibited a 71 percent reduction in rear-end collisions and a 63 percent decrease in unsafe following behaviors.

Members of the Subcommittee should acknowledge the drastic reductions in truck crash fatalities in the European Union, which requires both speed limiters and automatic emergency braking. They should listen to safety officials of successful companies, like Mr. Woodruff of J.B. Hunt, who discussed at the roundtable the safety and cost benefits of equipping their trucks with a suite of safety technologies. The fact the 96 percent of J.B. Hunt’s fleet is equipped with a combination of technologies that has resulted in a 60 percent reduction in crashes is a clear, real-world example that the rest of the industry should follow.

We are hopeful that Members will join us in calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to finalize rulemakings for heavy vehicle speed limiters and automatic emergency braking. If we are truly serious about realizing a future with fully autonomous commercial vehicles, we must recognize that these technologies serve as building blocks to achieving that. More importantly, we must recognize that these technologies can improve safety today, rather than several years from now.

Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Fully autonomous trucks are both inevitable and fast approaching. The speed of the technological advancements in trucking, however, does not absolve the Department of Transportation (DOT) of its responsibility to promote safety across an industry that engages in Interstate commerce on publicly funded roads. The DOT cannot abide by a weak voluntary agreement. Instead, the Department must develop an oversight framework that protects public safety without inhibiting innovation.

It may only be several years before driver-assisted and autonomous commercial motor vehicles will be operating alongside driver-operated vehicles. Consequently, it will become increasingly important for the federal government to standardize the tests, methods, and metrics to determine the effectiveness of AV technology. Failure to do so could result in trucks operating with unreliable and unsafe technologies and testing that does not accurately assess whether a technology will perform as intended. This creates two potential problems: 1) a technology intended to make our roads safer will weaken safety on our roads, and 2) public confidence in this technology will erode, making it more difficult for manufacturers to roll out on a large scale.

No Exemptions for Trucks

Our organization supports several recommendations that we believe will make sure that the rollout of AV technology in trucks is both safe and smooth. There is an important role for federal oversight regarding the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology. Factors that should be considered in AV technology in trucks includes:

Manufacturers of AV Technology Requirements

  • AV systems must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards without any exemptions
  • AV systems must meet or exceed a “functional safety standard” as to be determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA)
  • AV systems must meet or exceed a minimum cybersecurity standard as to be issued by the Secretary within 3 years of enactment of this legislation
  • Submit a detailed report that analyzes the safety performance of automated driving systems and automated vehicles
  • Remove from operation any autonomous commercial motor vehicle with a defect
  • Determine whether a defect affects one vehicle or if the defect is fleet-wide
  • Report all fatal, injury and property damage only crashes involving driver-assisted and autonomous trucks to NHTSA
  • Establish a privacy plan

Motor Carrier Requirements for Testing

  • Apply for additional operation authority
  • An operator with a valid commercial driver’s license must be in the autonomous commercial motor vehicle at all times during testing

o   The operator shall have an additional endorsement on his CDL denoting that he has been adequately trained to manage the AV technologies in the truck

Secretary of Transportation Requirements

  • Establish a database for autonomous commercial vehicles. Information should include:

o   Vehicle’s identification number

o   Manufacturer, make, model and trim information

o   Level of automation and operational design domain of each of the vehicle’s automated driving systems

o   Any exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards granted to the vehicle

  • Promulgate a regulation on driver engagement
  • Determine any additional enforcement measures pertaining to AV technology that state and local law enforcement should consider during road side inspections
  • Request and direct additional resources to NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to develop regulations and execute enforcement efforts relating to AV technology.

AV technology can potentially eliminate many preventable injuries and needless deaths, but we strongly advise policy-makers to proceed prudently and ensure that safety is paramount in all discussions of it. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate, like last week’s roundtable, to determine the benchmarks of adequate testing, the extent of federal oversight, and the details of safety standards as we work towards realizing driver assisted and autonomous trucks that reduce crashes, and the resulting death and injury tolls.

Sincerely,

John Lannen, Executive Director

Truck Safety Coalition

Steve Owings, Co-Founder

Road Safe America

cc: Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Letter to Subcommittee on Highways and Transit – Roundtable on Truck Technologies

Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition on 2016 Increase in Truck Crash Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) release of the 2016 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview revealed that in 2016, there were 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks – a 5.5 percent increase from 2015 and a 28 percent increase since 2009. Unfortunately, this increase in deaths is not surprising given the troubling safety trends that the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) has been highlighting since 2009.

Since 2009, TSC has been informing Congress of the worsening trends in truck safety as well as of the various commonsense solutions that they could implement to prevent truck crashes and reduce the resulting injuries and fatalities. Unfortunately, legislators lack a sense of urgency and regulators continue to delay data-driven technologies, like automatic emergency braking and heavy vehicle speed limiters. Those technologies have been implemented, with great results, throughout the world, but continue to stall here in the United States.

Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation has delayed or completely withdrawn other critical safety rules that would protect the public as well as the occupants of trucks. A rule requiring truck drivers to be screened for sleep apnea was scrapped. A rule requiring the minimum insurance for large trucks per incident be increased was withdrawn, even though it has not been raised once since the 1980s. And two rules requiring improvements to underride protections on trucks and trailers were delayed by at least a year.

Instead of passing bills stuffed with exemptions, delays, and regulatory rollbacks to appease special interests, like a weight exemption for North Dakota and a non-divisible exemption for milk, Congress must act now to stop preventable truck crash deaths and injuries on our nation’s highways. They can start by asking Secretary Chao why truck safety is trending in the wrong direction and how the actions the DOT has taken since January will reverse those trends.

Rolling back regulations that would ensure truck drivers are awake and alert, motor carriers are adequately insured, and trucks are crash compatible with cars to prevent underride, will do nothing to reduce the number truck crashes, prevent injuries, or save lives. The only thing DOT’s actions accomplish is protecting the bottom lines of some special interests and placating a small, loud group of unsafe truck drivers that see all regulation as bad.

If lawmakers and policymakers are serious about reducing the number deaths and injuries resulting from large truck crashes, they seriously need to readjust their strategy. This increase would not be tolerated if the mode of transportation were different. People would not fly if 83 people died on flights each week or if the number of fatalities went up by 28 percent since 2009.

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STATEMENT OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON SENATE COMMERCE HEARING ON AUTONOMOUS TRUCKS

ARLINGTON, VA (September 13, 2017) – The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) thanks Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for holding this important hearing, “Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and our Nation’s Highways.” We look forward to working with members of the committee as well as safety advocates, technology companies, and leaders in the trucking industry to continue discussing the role of autonomous technologies in commercial motor vehicles and to develop an oversight framework that prioritizes safety first.

TSC recognizes the potential safety benefits of autonomous technologies in trucking, especially at a time when truck crashes continue to climb. Since 2009, truck crashes have gone up by 45 percent, resulting in a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities and a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries. To make matters worse, truck vehicle miles decreased by 3 percent in that same time, meaning that the truck crash involvement, truck crash injury, and truck crash fatality rates have all increased over the past six years.

While TSC is excited that autonomous technologies have the potential to prevent and mitigate thousands of crashes resulting from human error, we also want to ensure that the process for testing and developing AV technology in trucks does not jeopardize public safety. As we continue to figure out the details of the regulatory framework associated with AV technology, we urge lawmakers to work towards mandating automatic emergency braking and heavy vehicle speed limiters on all trucks. Both of these technologies serve as building blocks to achieving a fully autonomous truck, and, more importantly, can reduce crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives today, rather than several years from now.

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Truck Safety Coalition Opposes Any Attempt to Delay Implementation of Final Rule Requiring Electronic Logging Devices in Large Trucks

On behalf of truck crash survivors and families who lost loved ones in truck crashes, the Truck Safety Coalition supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) December 18, 2017 Electronic Logging Device (ELD) implementation deadline.

Updating the methodology by which truck drivers log hours, which dates back to the 1930s, has been long overdue. ELD technology will reduce the ability of bad actors to skirt federal regulations by modernizing the practice of logging hours. This mandate will also protect truck drivers from being coerced to exceed the hours they are allowed to operate because ELDs automatically record driving time, and therefore truck drivers cannot circumvent compliance by simply writing down false hours.

Additionally, the ELD mandate will enhance law enforcement officers’ capacity to enforce HOS restrictions and expedite the process of reviewing a truck driver’s logbook. The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will save not only time, but it will also produce a benefit or more than $1 billion, according to the FMCSA.

After working for more than two decades to produce a final rule that requires large trucks to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices, the Truck Safety Coalition opposes any further delay. The ELD Final Rule will save an estimated 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from large truck crashes each year. We cannot fathom why anyone would direct an agency, whose mission is to promote safety, to consider a delay that would result in an estimated 52 fatalities and 1,124 injuries over two years.

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Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition for the Record – Hearing on: FAST Act Implementation: Improving the Safety of the Nation’s Roads

Hearing on: FAST Act Implementation: Improving the Safety of the Nation’s Roads

Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

United States House of Representatives

July 18, 2017

Thank you Members of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit for holding this important hearing on the safety of the nation’s roads. The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries sustained in large truck crashes.

Since 2009, the number of truck crashes has increased by 45 percent, and the number of truck crash injuries and fatalities have gone up by 57 percent and 20 percent, respectively. The number of truck vehicle miles traveled, however, has decreased by 3 percent in that same time. Moreover, in 2009, the European Union had a greater number of truck crash fatalities than the United States, but in 2014, the last available year for comparable data, they recorded less truck crash fatalities than the United States. While the European Union continues to utilize lifesaving technologies, the United States continues to remain behind adoption of many of these technologies.

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that its mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic cost due to road traffic crashes. The agency notes that 94 percent of serious crashes are due to human error. In their budget proposal, NHTSA also notes, the development of a new standard for stability control is estimated to prevent a significant number of rollover crashes involving tractor-trailers and motor coaches. In addition, stability control systems provide a technology foundation for forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) systems that hold the promise for substantial reductions in rear-end crashes involving heavy vehicles. Given the agency’s positive view about the potential safety benefits of electronic stability control, both as a stand-alone safety system as well as a basic building block of highly automated vehicles, we are concerned that it is considering electronic stability control for heavy vehicles as an area for deregulatory actions.

Additionally, speed limiter technology already exists in almost all trucks manufactured since the 1990s, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determined that mandating that speed limiters be set on large trucks would result in a net benefit. In fact, a recently released study by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation that found that speed-related, at-fault truck crashes fell by 73 percent after mandatory speed limiter technology took effect in Ontario.

Unfortunately, the agency continues to delay and neglects to commit to finalizing a rule this year. The Administration’s recently released Unified Agenda revealed that FMCSA and NHTSA designated the Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiter rule as a long-term action item, meaning that the agencies need a minimum of 12 months to make progress on the rule. This delay directly defies an amendment offered by Senator Johnny Isakson that was included in the FY 17 Senate THUD Appropriations bill, which directed the Secretary to promulgate a final rule within six-months of the bill’s enactment.

This is not the only area that the new Administration has decided to kick the can on regulations that will prevent injuries and save lives. The Unified Agenda also revealed that rulemakings that would strengthen requirements for rear underride guards on trailers and require single unit trucks to be equipped with them were also moved to the long-term action list. At a time when we are seeing major trailer manufacturers go above and beyond the government’s proposed standard for rear underride guards, the government should not be backing away from this lifesaving technology. If anything, the agency tasked with promulgating this rulemaking should be looking for ways to maximize the potential safety benefits by accounting for the new developments in underride protections.

Link: https://transportation.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=401738 

 

Speed Limiters

Speeding:

  • On average, more than 1,000 lives are lost annually to speeding Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs).
  • Speeding (i.e., exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for conditions) was a contributing factor in 7.5 percent of all reported large truck crashes in 2015.
  • The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 22.9 percent of large trucks involved in all types of crashes, and 15.2 percent of large trucks involved in a two vehicle crash with a passenger car, were coded as traveling/driving too fast for conditions.

Requiring Speed Limiters be Set on All Large Trucks The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) supports a rule requiring all large trucks with existing speed limiting technology to be capped at a maximum speed of 60 mph. This regulation is long overdue as speed limiters have been installed in most trucks since the 1990s. By limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60mph, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 162 to 498 lives could be saved. Additionally, the FMCSA compared fleets that had speed limiters to fleets that did not, and they found that “trucks equipped with speed limiting devices had a statistically significant lower speed-limited-relevant crash rate compared to trucks without speed limiting devices.”

Speed Limiter Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) seeks to reduce crashes by applying selective braking to prevent rollovers and mitigate loss of control. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that ESC on large trucks would prevent 40 – 56 percent of rollovers and 14 percent of loss of control crashes. The agency also estimates that the ESC final rule has the potential to prevent 49- 60 fatalities, 649- 858 injuries, and 1,807- 2,329 crashes annually. The final rule takes effect in December 2017, and all trucks manufactured after December 2019 will be required to have ESC. TSC supports the full implementation of the life-saving technology.

Link to Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/06/23/2015-14127/federal-motor-vehicle-safety-standards-electronic-stability-control-systems-for-heavy-vehicles

Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technology is a proven highway safety technology that could and will save countless lives and prevent injuries.  Unfortunately, after years of study and successful use by leading motor carriers, this technology has yet to be required for commercial motor vehicles.  As the public endures continued delays to require equipment that is readily available, families across the nation have had to pay the ultimate price.

In order to prevent these needless deaths and injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should mandate AEB technology on all large trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. While the agency granted the petition submitted on February 19, 2015 by the Truck Safety Coalition, Road Safe America, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto Safety this past October, action is long overdue and we call on NHTSA to produce a final rule.

On average, each year, 4,000 people are killed and another 100,000 more are injured in truck crashes. Sadly, these losses are mounting, which is why it is so important for the government to take action. Each year an AEB Final Rule is delayed, more Americans will be killed in large truck crashes.

NHTSA estimates that current generation AEB systems can prevent more than 2,500 crashes each year and that future generation systems could prevent more than 6,300 crashes annually. Every year a full implementation of AEB is delayed, research estimates that 166 people will unnecessarily die and another 8,000 individuals will suffer serious injuries.

To save these lives, prevent injuries, reduce costs, and ensure families remain whole, we call on Congress to immediately mandate AEB technology in all large trucks.

Crash Avoidance Technologies Fact Sheet