Safety is always top of mind for the trucking industry, both in the vehicles used and the drivers behind the wheel.
The trucking industry has always put a premium on safety. That might not seem like the case when you find yourself gridlocked due to an accident involving one or more trucks. Or you might only recollect the crash scenes you see on the evening news. But when you consider how many trucks are on the highways, bridges, and roads of this country at any one time, you realize how the industry actually has a good safety record.
According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the industry spends more than $7 billion per year on safety training and technology to prevent crashes. The result of that investment is in the fact that, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 2014 Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report, there has been a 3.7% drop in fatalities from 2013. Even more impressive, since 2004 the number of large truck crashes that resulted in one or more fatalities is down 23.5%. When crashes do occur, most are caused by aggressive or distracted drivers of passenger vehicles. The FMCSA found that only 4% of crashes could be attributed to commercial driver fatigue. The driver fatigue issue is one that is usually cited by critics of the industry as a major problem, but the numbers just make it clear that is simply not the case.
Although the ATA pointed out that although crash fatalities are down, crashes resulting in injuries or property damages have risen. The association is hoping that even more safety training and new technology like electronic stability control and collision mitigation systems will increase the safety record by decreasing these types of accidents as well.
Obviously, the most important things any fleet can do to ensure safety is perform regular maintenance on their vehicles and oversee driver performance and behavior. But in this regulatory environment, those steps aren’t enough. I’m talking, of course, about the CSA scoring. Concerns about the accuracy and reliability of these scores won’t go away any time soon. Not only are there questions as to whether the carrier and driver scoring really is a predictor of crash risk. According to ATRI, “There are disparities in how states collect and report safety performance data, and shippers are potentially misusing the data in the selection of carriers to haul freight.” It’s these concerns that have put on hold temporarily the ability for the CSA to put the scores on public view.
One of the true ironies when it comes to regulations is that, according to experts, most accidents involving commercial vehicles occur between the hours of 6am and 6pm. Yet the HOS 34-hour restart rule pushes more traffic into daytime hours and, thus, into more crashes.
Whatever the regulators decide going forward, carriers will continue to do everything they can to make their vehicles and drivers safe, not just for their business, but for drivers of passenger cars sharing the road as well.