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Truck-Related Fatalities Jumped 8.6% in 2010

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I-15 big rig accident

The photographer writes: "Asleep at the wheel? I was headed south on I-15 Friday afternoon. Hope no one was injured."

The U.S. Department of Transportation has reported that although overall road fatalities in 2010 were lower than any year since 1949, truck-related deaths increased by 8.6%. In auto accidents involving trucks, deaths rose to 3,675, as compared with 3,380 in 2009. And fatalities among truck drivers increased by 6%, to 529, with 64% of those involving single-vehicle crashes. Injuries were up by 12% in 2010 over the previous year.

In a statement, American Trucking Associations (ATA) President William Graves said, “Every fatality on our highways is a tragedy, and the uptick in the 2010 preliminary report concerns us deeply. Without more information and analysis, though, it is difficult to draw conclusions about what this preliminary data means.” writes that “A key piece of the 2010 equation — vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by large trucks — won’t be released until early 2012.” reports that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Anne Ferro said at a recent Congressional hearing that the Hours of Service rule needs to be rewritten as one way to reduce the number of fatigue-related truck crashes.

And Sean Kilcarr, senior editor of Fleet Owner, quotes Jacquelin Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, as calling for “stronger regulations, tougher oversight, and sustained enforcement of motor carriers across the country”:

She pointed to the DOT’s crash statistics as the reason why the U.S. Senate must quickly pass the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011 (S.1950) or ‘CMV bill,’ legislation introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate’s Surface Transportation Subcommittee, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate’s Commerce Committee, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), chairman of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee.

The CMV bill would, among other things, impose increased financial penalties for companies that create an imminent hazard to public health and for so-called ‘reincarnated carriers,’ which operate illegally after being shut down for safety problems. It would also mandate the use of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) to reduce truck driver fatigue, establish a clearinghouse for controlled substance and alcohol testing records of CMV operators, and fund a study of the safety and infrastructure effects of increasing truck size and weight limits. […]

‘The safety of the public depends on this bill being passed immediately.’ [Gillian said.]

However, Kilcarr writes, ATA said a report released by FMCSA in October indicates that passenger vehicle drivers need to be looked at in the debate about truck-related fatalities:

‘The most compelling data on this subject showed that 78% of critical incidents — crashes, near-crashes, and crash-relevant conflicts — between large trucks and passenger vehicles were initiated by passenger vehicle operators,’ Rob Abbot, ATA’s vp-safety policy, told Fleet Owner by email.

An editorial on Monday in Transport Topics says:

What we hope will not be lost in the clamor that some interest groups are sure to try and stir up in the wake of this latest report is that the results still rank among the best in history.

In fact, over the past 10 years, fatal crashes involving heavy trucks have declined by 35%, even as the number of heavy trucks on the road has increased by 41%.

Image by miheco, used under its Creative Commons license.


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