A new video of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show how underride guards can prevent passenger vehicles from going underneath the side of a tractor trailer in a collision. Check out the video below*.
While driving, you may occasionally notice protruding spike-like lug nut covers on the wheels of tractor-trailers. While usually made of plastic, these spikes may also be made of aluminum or metal. One hazard is that these spikes may extend out too far from the outer edge of the rim of the wheel and come into contact with other vehicles, including motorcyclists and bicyclists, or even pedestrians.
As I previously discussed in a prior blog post, nearly half of bicyclists and one quarter of pedestrians who are killed by a large truck first impact the side of the truck. It is easy to see the increased danger of side impacts if the bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian makes contact with a wheel’s spikes.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The Obama administration today is proposing training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators, as mandated by Congress as part of MAP-21.
In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called it a “major step towards ensuring that commercial vehicle drivers receive the necessary training required to safely operate a large truck or motorcoach.”
Specifically, those seeking a “Class A” commercial drivers license would have to have no less than 30 hours of training behind the wheel from a program that meets minimum FMCSA standards. This also includes at least 10 hours of practice driving.
For a “Class B” commercial driver’s license, applicants would have to have at least 15 hours of training behind the wheel and seven hours on a practice range.
The new standards would apply to any first-time CDL applicants, those with a current CDL license seeking an upgrade or additional endorsement, and anyone who had previously been disqualified from a CDL again seeking to be licensed. Military drivers, farmers and firefighters would continue to be exempt.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has posted on their website that on Thursday, January 21, 2016, that the FMCSA will publish a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to establish new methods for a motor carrier to be classified as unfit.
Under the NPRM, the 34-year old system of dividing commercial motor carrier’s safety ratings into three tiers—“satisfactory,” “conditional,” or “unsatisfactory”—would instead be replaced with a simpler designation of “unfit.” Carriers deemed unfit would have to improve safety levels or cease operations.
Other changes in the proposed rule are:
- Carriers would be assessed monthly, using fixed failure measures that are identified in the NPRM. Stricter standards would be based on those from the agency’s Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) with a higher correlation to crash risk, which include examining unsafe driving, Hours-of-Service (HoS) compliance, and driver fitness.
- Violations of a revised list of “critical” and “acute” safety regulations would result in failing a BASIC.
- All investigation results would be used, not just from comprehensive on-site reviews.
- A carrier would be proposed unfit by failing two or more BASICs through:
- Investigation results
- A combination of both
The carriers identified in the agency’s analysis have crash rates that are more than three times the national average.
Unfortunately, those marginal carriers that are currently rated as “conditional” will now be listed as satisfactory. This will make it difficult for brokers, shippers, and the general public to identify “high-risk carriers,” thereby making it more difficult to hold these carriers responsible when they injure and kill innocent victims on our highways.
If you were injured as a result of a trucking accident, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.
On November 30th, the U.S. Department of Transportation published a Final Rule that will punish carriers, brokers, shippers, and all others who pressure truckers to violate federal safety regulations. This rule is designed to protect honest, law-abiding truckers and, in turn, the motoring public at large.
A trucker’s job is far from easy. On-duty truckers have to worry about inspecting and maintaining their equipment; following federal, state, and local laws; keeping themselves fit, well-rested, and alert; navigating through our congested and deteriorating roadways; and making safe deliveries. Oftentimes, these truckers are away from their homes and families for extended periods of time, which leads to additional stress. The last thing that truckers should worry about is being pressured by carriers, brokers, shippers, and any others in the supply chain to violate federal safety laws in order to increase profits for the trucking industry.
This new rule comes in response to truckers’ complaints that when they refuse to violate safety rules, such as the hours-of-service requirements, the trucking industry threatens to harm them economically. Specifically, the trucking industry will threaten to reduce their miles, reduce their loads, or impose other financial harms. Truckers, who are already underpaid, are unfairly forced into a catch-22: violate safety rules and needlessly endanger themselves and others, or put food on the table for their families.
Profit motivates the trucking industry, and the hope is that the financial penalties associated with the new rule will discourage the trucking industry from coercing truckers to violate safety rules. Under the new rule, any carrier, broker, shipper, receiver, or anyone else in the supply chain who attempts to force drivers to operate their vehicles when it would violate federal rules to do so will face fines of up to $16,000.00. The rule will go into effect on January 29, 2016, which is 60 days from its publication date in the Federal Register.
12/3/15 Update: “The FAST Act” Still Contains Anti-Safety Provisions
Members of the United States Congress are currently negotiating the final language of a transportation bill known as “the DRIVE Act.” This legislation will have a major impact on everyone using our nations’ roadways in the years to come.
The terms of the Act have been a subject of debate for some time now, and certain anti-safety provisions (such as the proposed increase in the maximum weight limit for commercial trucking) have been defeated. However, the current legislation still contains numerous provisions that must be removed because they present a threat to the health and safety of the public. Some examples include: