Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center reports that nearly half of bicyclists and one quarter of pedestrians who are killed by a large truck first impact the side of the truck. During a crash with a large truck that has high ground clearance, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users can fall into the space between the front and rear wheels and suffer often-fatal crushing injuries. Truck side guards are vehicle-based safety devices that physically cover that exposed space, shielding road users from being swept underneath the wheels.

Volpe’s review of side guard design and crash outcomes in countries requiring these safety devices indicates that the safety effectiveness of sideguards is well established. For example, following a mandate requiring truck side guards in the United Kingdom, studies showed that there was a 61 percent drop in cyclist fatalities and a 20 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities related to side-impact collisions with trucks.

Continue Reading Truck Side Guards Increase Safety

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a proposed rule revising its method for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers. The notice of proposed rulemaking, issued on Jan. 21, 2016, set forth a new methodology for evaluating whether a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

FMCSA’s proposal sought to replace its current three safety fitness ratings — “satisfactory,” “conditional,” and “unsatisfactory” — with just one rating, “unfit.” However, that idea was challenged by some industry groups, including the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). The NSTA stated that the current safety fitness rating system aligns well with the safety culture within the school transportation industry. NSTA raised concerns that the proposed new system would leave a safe carrier unrated, offering limited guidance on the safety record of the carrier and causing potential confusion among carriers, law enforcement, and the public.

Continue Reading FMCSA Withdraws Proposal on Safety Fitness Determination

In February, a truck driver died when his tractor trailer crashed through the guard rail and went over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, plunging into the water. Many were quick to blame the crash on high winds when it came to light that just before the crash, a wind restriction prohibiting tractor-trailer traffic on the bridge had been lifted.

However, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel authorities maintain the crash occurred due to the driver’s error in passing another tractor trailer – and was not wind-related. CBBT Police Chief Edward Spencer says the truck was in the right lane when the driver attempted to pass a tractor trailer in front of him. Upon returning to the right lane, the truck rode up onto the curb, went through the guard rail, and fell into the water below.

The incident raised questions about the safety effectiveness of current bridge-crossing restrictions. According to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s website, the bridge is subject to a six level scale for wind restrictions. The lowest level is Level 1, which places restrictions on certain vehicles when winds reach 40 mph. Wind gauges along the span send readouts every 30 seconds to computers monitored around the clock. If a gauge detects a problem gust, restrictions are put into place relating to the type of vehicle, the load and the weight.

On the morning of the accident, a storm with Level 4 gusts of 60 mph had closed the span to tractor-trailers. The Virginia-Pilot reports that the now-deceased trucker had called his company at 8 a.m. saying he was concerned about the wind. However, around noon, a Level 1 restriction was declared and the span was cleared for tractor-trailer traffic. Within the hour, winds had picked up enough to move to Level 2’s additional weight requirements, which the truck would not have met. A Level 2 restriction involves 47 mph winds and only tractor-trailers carrying at least 30,000 pounds of payload are permitted to cross. According to Police Chief Spencer, the tractor trailer in this crash was hauling 4,000-6,000 pounds. The truck driver attempted to cross the span in his rig during the short open window of the Level 1 restriction, following other tractor trailers that had been waiting in line due to the earlier Level 4 restriction.

Mike Crist, deputy director of infrastructure for the bridge says the guardrails that line the bridge are eight inches taller than required by federal guidelines. However, guardrails are designed to withstand a 62-mph impact from a smaller vehicle. A guardrail is not designed to stop a tractor trailer but to “give” and direct a vehicle back onto the roadway. A stronger guardrail could harm drivers of smaller vehicles due to its rigidity and would likely be ineffective in stopping the truck anyway.

The “black box” from the tractor trailer in the fatal crash was damaged and provided no data on the driver’s speed or actions prior to the crash. Although it remains unclear whether wind was a factor in this crash, Richard Wood, a consultant in truck aerodynamics, says the bridge-tunnel’s 52-year-old wind-restrictions scale may need to be updated to account for the weight and shape of newer trucks and trailers. Wood thinks the bridge-tunnel should reduce its speed limit during gusty conditions and institute other safety measures such as no passing, and spacing requirements between trucks.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2015, 3,852 people died in crashes involving large trucks. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants; 69 percent were passenger vehicle occupants; and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

Continue Reading Several Factors Found to Increase Risk of Truck Crashes

Drivers on Colorado’s Interstate 25 were largely unaware that the Otto-Budweiser semi-truck next to them had no one in the driver’s seat, on October 20, 2016. The truck was operated by autonomous driverless technology during a 120 mile maiden trip; a beer run from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.

Does a fully loaded, driverless tractor-trailers pose a threat to the motoring public?

Continue Reading Driverless Truck Rolls Past Drivers on Freeway

A 2012 federally-funded study conducted by the Virginia Tech University Transportation Institute and the American Transportation Research Institute, revealed that speed reduction decreases the number of truck crashes on U.S. roadways. The study included data from 20 fleets, 15,000 crashes, and 138,000 trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has used the study as supporting evidence for its new proposed rule to mandate Speed Limiters on commercial vehicles. The Speed Limiter Rule would physically prevent trucks from exceeding a maximum speed of up to 68 miles per hour.

Continue Reading Lower Speeds Decrease Truck Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is continuing its campaign to prevent crashes by improving commercial truck safety. It recently issued a modification rule to allow voluntary placement of safety devices in the windshield area of cars and commercial vehicles. These safety systems are reputed to decrease driver errors and protect those on the road from catastrophic crashes and injuries. The FMCA has the authority to “regulate drivers, motor carriers, and vehicle equipment,” including regulatory power over commercial vehicle safety.

Continue Reading New Rule Permits Windshield-Mounted Safety Devices

The Department of Transportation recently announced a proposal to add speed limiting devices to commercial trucks in an effort to improve highway safety. The devices would physically prevent trucks from exceeding a maximum speed—recommended at 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour. The rule would apply to commercial vehicles over 26,000 pounds with motor carriers responsible for maintaining the devices and enforcing the speed rules.

Every driver knows that cars must share the highways with commercial trucks. There isn’t a separate road system. Big rigs weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds and that puts passenger cars at a serious disadvantage in a crash. The weight of the vehicles and speed at impact sometimes result in multi-car pile-ups and almost always result in serious injury or death.

Continue Reading Mandatory Speed Limiter Technology Rule May Reduce Commercial Truck Accidents

Have you ever seen a big rig parked on the shoulder of the Interstate? How about twenty of them? In the town of Mahwah, New Jersey, this is a daily occurrence. Every night truckers turn the shoulder of Interstate 287 into an improvised truck stop. This is both a nuisance and a danger.

The area where the truckers stop has steep inclines and the highway shrinks from three lanes to two, which is dangerous enough without big rigs blocking the shoulder. Truckers claim that they have no choice—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says they have to stop driving after 11 hours and that’s what they do—right there in the emergency lane of I-287. However, if trucking companies and truck drivers responsibly planned their routes, there would not be such a large number of trucks dangerously and illegally parked on the roadway each night.

Continue Reading Illegal Truck Stops—Drivers Ditch Safety for Convenience

We’ve all experienced it. You are driving down the freeway at 65 miles per hour in the middle lane. Suddenly a massive eighteen wheeler looms in your rearview mirror. Or one roars past you well in excess of the speed limit. Or, even worse, both trucks barrel down on you at the same time. It is intimidating and frightening to be in the path of an 80,000 pound big rig while driving in a 3000 pound car. Here’s why you should be frightened: that truck driver may be exhausted, on the verge of falling asleep, and about to crash into you or the cars around you.

Continue Reading Are Long-Haul Truckers Asleep at the Wheel?