Some thoughts on longer trucks from law enforcement and a trucking association:
“‘Safety on our Nation’s roadways is a top priority and efforts to allow new longer, more dangerous trucks should be rejected. We applaud Senator Schumer for opposing the provision to allow twin 33-foot trailers, which threatens our members and the motoring public. We will continue working with him to prevent this alarming proposal from becoming law,’ said Sergeant Andrew Matthews, Chairman of the National Troopers Coalition, which represents over 40,000 State Troopers in 38 states, including New York.
“’The Trucking Alliance opposes efforts to force states to allow double 33’ trailers on U.S. highways. These longer trucks would have negative impact on highway safety, accelerate wear and tear on the nation’s highway system, and make it very difficult for small and medium sized trucking companies, which are the heart of our industry, to compete,’ said Lane Kidd, Managing Director of the Trucking Alliance, a group that represents some of the Country’s leading trucking companies.”
I read this article by a journalist in the trucking world not too long after I became a reluctant safety advocate after my daughters died in a truck crash. It was worth a read.
This is what Tom Berg observed many years ago:
“. . . in 1998 came a requirement for ‘rear-impact guards’ that absorb some of the collision forces. Each trailer maker designed its own, which complicated repair costs because instead of replacing a damaged member by welding on a piece of channel iron, specific parts had to be found and bolted into place.
“Managers’ fears of greater expense were borne out, in repairs as well as initial added cost to trailers. Two or three hundred bucks is not a lot to add to the price of a $10,000 or $15,000 trailer, unless you run 500 or 1,000 or 5,000 trailers, especially at a time when everything in trucking was going up in price. Managers have a point.
“About 25 years ago, when I first started hearing about bumpers in those meetings, I noticed a hard-heartedness among fleet managers: If a motorist is stupid or drunk or drugged enough to rear-end my trailer, should I have to worry about what happens to him?
“A lot of people say yes, for several reasons. . . Know what? I agree with those safety people. Because in 1973 I heard about a guy who was killed when he underrode a semi. . .
“. . . many fleet managers now seem enlightened and see public safety as a responsibility.”
Note: I hope that public safety is perceived as a responsibility related to Single Unit Trucks as well–http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/fleet-management/news/story/2015/07/nhtsa-initiates-upgrade-of-truck-underride-and-conspicuity-rules.aspx.
Here is some information on single unit trucks (SUTs) crash statistics from the National Transportation Board:
” Although single-unit trucks comprise three percent of registered motor vehicles and four percent of miles traveled, they are involved in nine percent of fatalities among passenger vehicle occupants in multivehicle crashes. Crashes involving single-unit trucks and passenger vehicles pose a hazard to passenger vehicle occupants due to differences in weight, bumper height, and vehicle stiffness. . .
“Many studies of truck safety have examined fatalities as the sole outcome of interest. Tractor-trailers result in a larger proportion of fatal injuries from large truck crashes, which is one reason why some truck safety regulations have been limited to tractor-trailers and trailers. However, this study shows that there are substantial societal impacts resulting from non-fatal injuries arising from single-unit truck crashes. Emergency department visits, inpatient hospitalizations,3 and hospital costs4 that result from the crashes provide measures of the adverse effect of non-fatal injuries on the public.
“This study also shows that federal and state databases frequently misclassify single-unit trucks and thus undercount the total number of fatalities resulting from single-unit truck crashes by approximately 20 percent.”
These U.S.A. Crash Death & Injuries Clocks are hard to watch: http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/clock.php
The loved ones already numbered there can never be brought back, but if only we could slow down the pace of those clocks!
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the ongoing battle over highway safety. The opposition, as far as I can tell, to measures designed to protect travelers on the road demand more research. But are they listening to the research already being done?
One specific example is regarding longer trucks (Double 33s):
“The legislation would force states to allow “twin 33s” — trucks that pull two trailers, each 33 feet long. Only 11 states allow them now, and Pennsylvania is not among them. Double trailers here cannot be more than 28 feet, 6 inches, and single trailers can be no more than 53 feet long.
“Supporters say the change would eliminate 6 million trips each year, improve the environment and cut down on crashes. . .
“The former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration likens the massive trucks to “trains on highways” that would damage roads and endanger motorists. Trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than cars, and they take longer than cars to come to a stop, particularly on wet and slippery roads. A U.S. Department of Transportation study found that the twin 33s require 22 more feet for braking than the current trucks on the road. In 2013, 3,964 people died in crashes involving large trucks.
“Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat who is crusading against the change, says longer trucks would cause more than $2 billion in damage to the nation’s roads and bridges.” http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2015/07/26/Bigger-s-not-better-Longer-tractor-trailers-spell-trouble-on-the-road/stories/201507310057
- Copies of Detailed Research on This Issue–including past DOT Reports on Truck Size & Weight: http://www.cabt.org/research
NHTSA has had some weak areas, but then let’s do what we can to improve their ability to do what they were commissioned to do in 1966–not sabotage their efforts. In October 1966, Dr. William Haddon became the first administrator of the new federal safety agency.
“Haddon announced twenty-three proposed standards on November 29, 1966, at the Auto Industry Dinner held at the Detroit Automobile Show. . . Haddon began his speech by reminding the auto executives and others present of the ‘continuing national tragedy’ of nearly three times as many Americans dying ‘on our streets and highways,’ as have died in all America’s wars. ‘As civilized people,’ Haddon said, we can no longer tolerate these fatalities, ‘year after year, like a medieval plague beyond our power of influence.’ America must, he said, ‘manufacture safer automobiles.’
“The infant agency raced against the clock to issue new safety standards within about one year of its creation by early 1968. It was not an easy task. . . Haddon himself worked nights and weekends while building the structure of NHTSA and simultaneously writing the final safety standards. . .
“NHTSA’s twenty-three ‘final’ safety standards were drawn mostly from existing General Service Administration standards, from the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) voluntary ‘guides,’ and one–banning hubcaps that could become dangerous projectiles–based on a Swedish government standard. They were organized into three categories, paralleling Haddon’s original accident matrix: 100-level standards designed to prevent crashes from occurring; 200-level standards designed to reduce the likelihood of injury when crashes occurred; and 300-level standards designed to reduce the risk of injury after a crash occurred. They were issued on time.
“Once a federal standard was adopted it had real teeth. It became the law of the land and could not be ignored or offered only as an option by car makers selling motor vehicles in the United States. The scope of federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) started with the initial twenty-three, but it has expanded and now includes more than fifty major standards, covering passenger cars, pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, motorcycles, large trucks, buses, and school buses.
“The initial 1968 standards ranged from relatively modest changes such as uniform and visible labeling of dashboard controls, to ground-breaking rules, such as those requiring front seat shoulder harnesses and seat belts built to the GSA standard. There were standards that represented major improvements, such as common transmission shifting sequences (Park-Reverse-Neutral-Drive-Low), warning lights for braking system failures, improved exterior lighting, front seat head restraints, collapsible, energy-absorbing steering columns, and safer door latches.
“The first NHTSA standards were met with sharp criticism from automobile manufacturers. They derided them as ‘useless,’ ‘inadvisable,’ ‘illegal,’ and ‘impossible to meet.’. . .
“For the first time, the automobile industry was required to follow federal safety rules in the design of much of its cars. The standards established a base level of safety in automobiles sold to Americans. And they demonstrated that a federal agency could, if it was forceful enough, require automobile manufacturers to change their car designs to produce safer vehicles.” (Car Safety Wars; One Hundred Years of Technology, Politics, and Death, by Michael R. Lemov, pp. 115-116, 118)
Fortunately, these standards were made law and not voluntary standards,
“The House proposal gave the manufacturers the right to initially write voluntary standards before the federal government would have the chance and the heavy burden of showing that further action was necessary. Detroit should have grabbed the offer. Voluntary industry standards, in any industry, have the reputation of often being weak standards. They are enforceable only through publicity and public awareness, not by government action. The level of such voluntary standards, set by industry committees with limited public participation, can be that demanded by the weakest company, the one with the tightest profit margins. Voluntary standards are ‘consensus’ standards, based on agreement of all industry participants. In dealing with the lives and safety of so many people, safety standards, are, and were then, matters not of consensus but of public importance.” (Lemov, p. 94)
Just one example of this is the rear underride guard standard for tractor-trailers. The current standard is weak and ineffective and does not prevent many deadly underride crashes. The current rule was implemented in 1998 and, despite research to show that it needs to be strengthened, the industry has done little to voluntarily improve the situation. This is a matter of public importance and it is my sincere hope that industry and government can work together and not in opposition.
Let’s not cave in to industry pressure at the price of compromising the safety of all who travel on the road. Let’s give them the authority and resources to do the job they were given to do. That includes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as well.
I, for one, am thankful and will do all I can to promote thorough research and informed decision-making. Saved lives are well worth the price.
I was sent the link to this crash which took place yesterday near Greensboro, North Carolina. A pick-up was entering the expressway, didn’t “negotiate the exit and crashed into the back of a disabled tractor-trailer in the median.”
The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured. The driver of the pick-up (F-350) died. The photos appear to indicate an underride crash with Passenger Compartment Intrusion (PCI).
Would a stronger underride guard have saved his life?
If underride caused his death, the manufacturer of the truck is not likely to be held responsible.
The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making for rear impact guards and reflective tape on Single Unit (Straight) Trucks (SUTs) is now published in the Federal Register as of today, July 23, 2015.
Public Comments will be accepted on this issue for 60 days (until September 21, 2015).
Please take the time to let the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) know what you think. To do so, go here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA_FRDOC_0001-1478
If you scroll down on that site, it gives very detailed information about what they are proposing and why and upon what they would like comments. In particular, there are instructions for commenting: IV. Request for Comment on Extension of FMVSS No. 224
“NHTSA requests comments that would help the agency assess and make judgments on the benefits, costs and other impacts of requiring SUTs to have underride guards. In providing a comment on a particular matter or in responding to a particular question, interested persons are asked to provide any relevant factual information to support their opinions, including, but not limited to, statistical and cost data and the source of such information. For easy reference, the questions below are numbered consecutively.”
In order to make your viewpoint known about these needed changes to help prevent underride crashes, unnecessary deaths & horrific injuries, please Click on COMMENT NOW! at that site.
We have many posts on this topic–providing you with plenty of opportunity to take a good, hard look at the facts of this matter: http://annaleahmary.com/underride-guards/ and http://annaleahmary.com/tag/underride-guards/.
Also, see this post for a description of SUTs: http://annaleahmary.com/2015/07/celebrating-progress-in-underride-guard-rulemaking-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-single-unit-trucks-suts/
Whether you are able to provide detailed feedback or simply voice your thoughts on the necessity of this proposed rulemaking, please join us in speaking out. Also, please multiply your efforts and share this post using the buttons at the bottom of the post.
This is the first step toward reaching the goal of making effective underride prevention a requirement for Single Unit Trucks. Thank you for helping us to move this along for the safety of us all and in memory of AnnaLeah & Mary Karth–and the countless others who have lost their lives in potentially unnecessary underride crashes.
Perhaps you have seen this photo before. . . so let me explain that this was taken in 2010 at the Muskegon Luge in Muskegon, Michigan Winter Sports Complex, where Olympic hopefuls practice. AnnaLeah & Mary had gone there with siblings off-season and, after “trying out” the luge, were pretending to be the victors–standing on the awards blocks and raising their hands in victory. Their genuine joy in life, and this reminder we have of it, makes me think that they would have celebrated with us every milestone in this battle for safer roads.
Please call your Senators and ask them to say no to the anti-safety provisions in the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy, DRIVE Act (S. 1647). We need to make sure anti-truck safety legislation does not pass. For more details please see the letter that the Truck Safety Coalition just sent to the Senate: Letter to Senate on Safety Title 7 22 15 FINAL
Click here to find phone numbers for your senators.
The bill, in the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy, DRIVE Act (S. 1647):
- Allows 18-20 year-old drivers to get behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck and drive to neighboring states. This provision is extremely dangerous because teen drivers have a higher crash risk, and do not have the experience or training to handle trucks.
- Requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to remove from public view the Safety Management System scores from the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. It also requires a determination on crash fault, but the FMCSA conducted a study, at the request of Congress, and found that a crash weighting process is not viable, necessary, or cost justified.
- Forces already overworked drivers to maintain even longer shifts on the road. Providing a permanent exemption for various groups from hours of service regulations will allow trucking companies to force drivers to be behind the wheel for even longer hours per day and per week.
Tell Your Senator To Put Public Safety Ahead of Corporate Interests and Protect the American Driving Public.