Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board convened a two day meeting of federal regulators, safety experts, and the truck and bus industries to try and tackle the often deadly problem of trucking accidents and bus wrecks. The conference was to examine what is being done to prevent deadly accidents and why past safety recommendations haven’t been enacted. Some of these recommendations have been pending for decades, including a 1968 recommendation that buses come with seat belts, which wasn’t enacted until last year.
Ironically, the number of fatal trucking accidents has decreased slightly in the last few years, but most experts attribute that to fewer trucks and buses being on the road in the weakened economy. Experts fear that as the economy recovers, the number of trucking wreck and bus accident fatalities will climb.
One of the most important areas sought to be improved by the Obama Administration is the area of driver fatigue. As much as one-third of all commercial motor vehicle crashes are due to fatigue according to the NTSB. There are already limits on the number of hours that truckers and bus drivers can drive, but the Obama Administration is seeking to decrease those hours a little more.
But the limits on hours driven is meaningless if it can’t be enforced. Currently, drivers are required to maintain log books that set out their hours behind the wheel. Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many cases where those log books were fudged or the driver maintained two sets of log books to allow them to “beat” the regulation. Another proposal from the Obama Administration would require equipping buses and trucks with devices that would record how many hours drivers were behind the wheel.
The Administration also wants trucks and buses to have some of the same safety technology that buses and trucks use in other countries. For example, buses and trucks could have electronic stability control (which helps prevent rollovers), warning systems to alert drivers they’re drifting in lanes, and warning systems that alert drivers to impending collisions.
It’s too early to know what will come of the summit, but we hope improvements are made.