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Congress wants to reduce deadly truck crashes – next year

Benjamin Franklin famously warned against procrastination: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” he said.

It’s ironic that the words of one of the nation’s most revered founders are ignored by Congress today.

The House Appropriations Committee recently tacked on a report to the 2022 budget telling the federal Department of Transportation what it wants the DOT to do with next year’s funding.

A trucking industry publication reports that the House committee has a number of recommendations for DOT to help make trucking safer, starting in fiscal 2022.

Hours of Service concerns

For instance, the committee is “concerned” about Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of Service rules that went into effect a year ago, extending the allowed driving time and distance for truckers. The change also reduced required truck-driver rest time.

The committee wants the FMCSA to analyze the effect of extension and whether or not it makes commercial truck accidents more likely.

Trucker fatigue is one of the most common causes of 18-wheeler crashes that result in severe injuries and fatalities, typically on fast-moving highways such as Interstate 43.

Trucker safety fitness

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg is also to initiate the creation of a procedure that will determine whether a truck driver is fit to drive a truck safely. The procedure is to require the trucker to demonstrate his or her safety fitness. DOT is also to develop a method for it to use to determine trucker safety fitness as well.

The Appropriations Committee also “remains alarmed” by commercial truck crash trends, noting that in 2019 injuries in large-truck crashes rose more than 5 percent and that fatalities soared 36 percent since 2010.

Last year’s budget included money for a truck-crash study and DOT is directed in this year’s budget to update the House and Senate on that study’s progress.

Saving lives with underride guards

The Appropriations Committee also wants NHTSA to work with engineers, researchers, safety advocates and the trucking industry “to facilitate the deployment and adoption of rear and side underride protection devices.” Underride guards will save hundreds of lives per year in collisions of truck trailers and passenger vehicles in which the passenger vehicles go beneath the trailers.

The committee also believes that requiring automatic emergency braking technology in large trucks will “significantly reduce” the more than 5,000 truck-wreck-related fatalities each year. It wants NHTSA to finalize an AEB requirement that Congress could then mandate.

Let’s hope that Congress and state lawmakers can find cost-effective ways to make tractor-trailers safer. The trucking industry would undoubtedly welcome a reduction in the frequency and expense of personal injury and wrongful death litigation involving victims of large truck accidents.

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