At Spot, the safety of our carriers, shippers, and every motorist on the road is a top priority.
In observance of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and National Work Zone Awareness Week, our team wanted to highlight some areas of concern and how agencies – such as the Federal Motor Carrier Administration and the National Safety Council – are working to improve safety on the road.
Some motorists may be breathing a collective sigh of relief following the National Safety Council and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s findings that the number of truck-involved fatal crashes has seen a decline from 2019-20. However, many drivers and government officials remain on alert as predictions for 2021 are showing an increase as the number of registered carriers continues to climb.
Several of the same safety concerns that were identified in 2021 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Annual Analysis, Research and Technology Forum remained trending during this year’s meeting, which included: speeding, distracted driving, fatigue, truck occupant fatalities, lack of widespread seatbelt usage and more.
FMCSA Chief Safety Officer, Jack Van Steenburg, remains optimistic that road safety can improve as drivers continue to enter the workforce.
“These crashes are all preventable. I truly believe that through engineering, enforcement, and technology, we can prevent these crashes from happening,” Van Steenburg said. “We have to stop this upward trend.”
We (Will) Have the Technology
The FMCSA, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is expected to introduce proposed regulation that would require new trucks to be outfitted with automatic emergency braking technologies. The agency announced in 2021 its intentions on issuing the new proposal later this year.
Automatic emergency braking systems – also referred to as collision mitigation systems – would apply a vehicle’s brakes in situations in which a rear-end crash is imminent and the driver has not taken any evasive actions following an onboard forward-collision warning. NHTSA has spent several years conducting research and field-testing collision-mitigations systems.
Though it’s still years away, FMCSA is working towards the integration of automated driver systems for heavy trucks. The timeline for Level 4 (High Driving Automation) and Level 5 (Full Driving Automation) trucks remains uncertain as researchers continue to ensure redundancies in computer vision systems and eliminate erroneous object detection.
“I’m optimistic that we are going to get to a place in the future where we can have much more automation assist on vehicles,” said NHTSA Senior Advisor for Safety Missy Cummings. “It’s a hyper-competitive environment that will lead to some exaggerated claims by some companies. But what works and what works safely and repeatedly in a very controlled and predictable manner, that’s a little bit different.”
Here and Now
While improvements to technology will help down the road, FMCSA and other agencies continue to focus on providing real-time solutions.
The last two years have not made that task easy as the ability to conduct on-site investigations was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“During the pandemic, we went to an off-site posture for almost two years where we were not doing on-site investigations,” Van Steenburg said. “We did the best we could, but think about it, we have almost 4,000 high-risk motor carriers out there.”
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, FMSCA has introduced plans to increase the number of traffic enforcement inspections and carrier compliance checks to encourage safer driving practices. Additionally, the agency is set to invest in creating safer vehicles, improved roadways, and conducting a $30 million study on the causes of large-truck accidents.
FMSCA will also continue to improve its preemptive and proactive approaches, with improvements to its new entrant safety audit and post-crash care procedures.
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