NTSB Issues 7 Truck Safety Recommendations

Truck Crash Statistics

The NTSB today announced 7 recommendations to the National Highway Safety Administration, urging them to to take action to “improve the safety of trucks.”

The study focuses heavily on truck blind spots. “Like large single-unit trucks, tractor-trailers may have blind spots that can reduce the ability of drivers to see other vehicles and road users. Researchers found that limited field of view can increase the risk of death or injury among passenger vehicle occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists when drivers of tractor-trailers change lanes, make turns, go straight, or back up,” the NTSB states.

According to the NTSB, 500 deaths occur each year in collisions with trailers, and many of the fatalities involved the side under ride, the NTSB says.  The agency pointed to under ride guard systems as a possible solution.  “Current trailer rear underride guard standards are outdated,” the NTSB says.  The agency is calling for mandates that would require trailer manufacturers equip newly manufactured trailers with a better under ride protection system.

In March 2011, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety called on the NTSB to develop stricter manufacturing standards for trailers, stating that the current under ride system is ineffective.

“If trailer manufacturers can make guards that do a better job of protecting passenger vehicle occupants while also promising lower repair costs for their customers, that’s a win-win,”  David Zuby, the IIHS chief research officer said. “While we’re counting on NHTSA to come up with a more effective regulation, we hope that in the meantime trailer buyers take note of our findings and insist on stronger guards.”

The NTSB also urged the NHSA to address the issue of collecting more detailed data on trailer make and model following a collisions involving trailers. The NTSB says that when a tractor-trailer gets into a accident, police record only basic information about the trailer.  The agency recommends collecting more detailed date on the trailer to help determine with trailer designs need to be altered to reduce injuries and deaths. The NTSB has recommended the NHSA add information on the trailer model year and identification number to its national database of fatal truck crashes.

“Millions of large trucks travel our roadways every day, transporting goods and keeping the American economy moving,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “But research shows that eliminating blind spots and underride events would reduce fatalities and injuries involving other road users.”

The NTSB report identified the following safety improvements recommendations:

(1) Enhance the ability of drivers of single-unit trucks to detect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

(2) Prevent passenger vehicles from underriding the rears and sides of single-unit trucks.

(3) Improve conspicuity of single-unit trucks.

(4) Improve federal and state databases on large truck crashes.

(5) Continue the functions of databases vital for accurate fatality data or that link hospital data with police reports.

(6) Examine the frequency and consequences of single-unit truck drivers operating with an invalid license.

(7) Research the potential benefits of expanding the commercial driver’s licensure requirement to lower weight classes.

The complete safety recommendation letter to NHTSA is available at: http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/recletters/2014/H-14-001-007.pdf