This summer, we first wrote about rising truck fatalities and later how a new bill on truck safety reportedly missed the mark. Since then, safety advocates are bypassing Congress and going right to the Biden Administration to push for legislation that actually does the job, according to an article on NJ.com.
Truck crash deaths are up 30% in just under a decade, according to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). Fatalities rose from 3,757 in 2011 to 4,895 in 2020. Current safety provisions are covered by a transportation policy due to expire December 11, giving safety advocates a chance to petition for new technologies and policies. However, the proposed bipartisan infrastructure bill remains on hold amid a heated debate along party lines in Congress.
Key safety provisions didn’t even make it into the bill, due to intense pressure from the trucking industry which spent $5.3 million on lobbying. For example, the bill requires automated braking systems for trucks heavier than 26,000 pounds but not lighter trucks. It also does not include collision warning systems or devices limiting truck speeds, both among the most wanted safety improvements by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Finally, the bill does not address sleep apnea or trucker hours.
The Truck Safety Coalition (a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers) is pushing the Biden administration to bypass Congress and take action through NHTSA. The safety groups note that we have the technology to improve safety and the research to show that these interventions are effective. “Requiring automated braking systems and collision warning systems in all trucks could reduce crashes by 41%,” according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
While this is a valid strategy, it may not be effective due to the glacial pace for enacting rules at NHTSA. For example, the agency committed to automated braking rules in 2015, and it took until 2021 for the rules to appear on the Office of Management and Budget’s list. NHTSA is close to finishing new standards for rear under guards on trucks, originally promised in 2014.
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