Big rigs, 18 wheelers, tractor trailers, semis: whatever you call those big commercial trucks that share the roads with family cars, motorcycles, and SUVs, they are likely to be involved in traffic accidents that include serious injuries or deaths because of their size, their weight, and their volume (and sometimes, their speed). It’s true for the roadways here in Indiana, Illinois, and our surrounding communities as well as across the country. And it’s true for other parts of the world, as well, since these big trucks are used all around the globe to move products and cargo from place to place.
Which is why the new study from Volvo Trucks’ Accident Research Team regarding safety and road accidents in Europe is important for Americans to consider when dealing with the dangers of commercial trucks sharing the roads with other traffic.
According to the Volvo Trucks’ European Accident Research and Safety Report 2013 (read it here), nine out of ten accidents (that’s right: 9 out of 10 accidents) involving trucks happened because of the human factor. From the Report (page 6):
The two most common human factor related factors that contribute to heavy truck accidents are failure to look properly and failure to judge another person’s path or speed. When the vehicle contributes to the accident, the most common cause is limited visibility due to blind spots.
Volvo Trucks’ Accident Research Team bases its findings not only on Volvo’s own investigations and research but from compiling data collected from various reputable sources in the various 27 countries that make up the European Union. According to Volvo’s finding, these big rig crashes are due to human drivers in either the truck or the other vehicle(s) in the accident, and speed isn’t gauged correctly by a driver or there’s an instance of distracted driving. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol did not seem to be a problem in the European study of trucking accidents.
After Nevada Crash, New Regulations Proposed for U.S. Truckers by NTSB to FMCSA
Meanwhile, on our side of the pond, the federal government is working out more regulations of truckers after the June 2011 tragedy where a commercial truck collided with a train in Reno, Nevada. The National Transportation Safety Board has just issued 19 new safety regulations as a result of its investigation of this single accident, and if these proposals become law then trucking companies will have a lot more to do in checking out who is driving their trucks. Here’s what the NTSB wants to see happen:
- Create a mechanism to gather and record commercial driving-related employment history information about all drivers who have a commercial driver’s license, and make this information available to all prospective motor carrier employers.
- Using that mechanism to require motor carriers to conduct and document investigations into the employment records of prospective drivers for the 10 years that precede the application date.
- Require motor carriers to retrieve records from the Commercial Driver’s License Information System and the National Driver Register for all driver applicants so that they can obtain a complete driving and license history of prospective drivers.
- Inform commercial vehicle inspectors of (1) the importance of taking pushrod stroke measurements within the specified pressure range, (2) the relationship between pushrod stroke and specific air pressure, and (3) the consequence of taking measurements outside of this range.
Read the NTSB’s Accident Report regarding the Nevada Truck – Train Collision here. According to the Report, delayed braking of the truck was a contributing factor to the crash:
Commercial driver fatigue and distraction: Despite visual cues provided by the active grade crossing directly in front of him, the truck driver did not begin skidding and depositing tire marks on the roadway until it was too late to avoid a collision with the passing train.