Despite Rise in Fatal Truck Accidents, Federal Regulators Are Failing to Adopt Important Safety Measures
Commercial trucks are the most massive machines on our roads, and they pose elevated risks of accidents, injuries, and deaths. For this reason, commercial truck drivers, employees, and companies are subject to many regulations designed to ensure they operate safely.
According to many safety advocates and experts, however, a spike in fatal trucking collisions shows existing rules and regulations may not be sufficient or extensive enough to protect the public. What’s more, federal regulators responsible for enacting new trucking safety laws are falling short in implementing new measures and enforcing critically important policies
A Spike in Fatal Trucking Wrecks Prompts Public Safety Concerns
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that truck accidents have become increasingly more fatal. In fact, NHTSA data shows that over 4,300 people were killed in accidents involving tractor-trailers and other commercial trucks in 2016 – a nearly 30% increase over numbers reported in 2009.
The rising toll of commercial trucking collisions has prompted concern from safety experts, advocacy organizations, and numerous victims and families who have been left in the wake. Many believe these numbers should prompt more public outrage and more government action, as they would if they were reported in relation to railroad accidents or incidents involving airplanes. Advocates claim the federal government has condidtently fallen short in addressing the most critical trucking safety risks.
Pressing Risks of Commercial Trucking and the Shortcomings of Federal Regulation:
- Rear-end collisions and crash-avoidance technology – Among the most devastating truck accidents are those when the commercial vehicle rear-ends another vehicle, especially small cars and sedans. These may also be some the easiest to prevent with new technologies. Unfortunately, federal regulators have largely failed to pass any meaningful rules designed to address rear-end collision risks posed by trucks. National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) investigates transportation accidents and makes safety recommendations but doesn’t have power to impose rules. Over the last two decades the NTSB has recommended on at least 10 separate occasions that regulators require crash-avoidance and mitigation systems on all commercial trucks. The technology, which is a standard feature on most consumer vehicles produced today, can help avoid and prevent trucks from causing rear-end collisions. Regulators in the European Union and other countries already require large commercial trucks to be fitted with such technology. NHTSA and federal regulators, however, have failed to even publish a proposed regulatory update involving the technology, let alone pass one and enforce it.
- Paralysis by analysis – Experts say much of the sluggishness by federal regulators to adopt new critical safety measures is caused by “paralysis by analysis.” Over the years, federal regulators have effectively ignored NTSB recommendations by saying they are investigating or reviewing technologies. Instead, they should prioritize public safety and adopt available technologies as soon as possible, especially as these have already been proven to compensate for acts of human error and negligence that commonly cause truck accidents, including speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence.
- Speeding – Speeding is an underlying factor in many preventable auto accidents, and can be especially deadly when the speeding vehicle weighs as much as 80,000 pounds. As speed limits have increased over the years, so have the rates of deadly truck accidents. Though many states enforce lower speed limits for truckers, mandated use of new technologies, including crash-avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking, can help ensure there are safety measures in place when trucks drive faster than they should. Both technologies are included on the NTSB’s “Most Wanted List” for traffic safety improvements.
- Money and politics – The flood of money into U.S. politics has long allowed corporations to benefit from policy interventions and legislation (or lack thereof) which protect their own interests. That is true in the trucking and transportation industry, where lobbyists are constantly at work blocking new laws and rolling back existing rules which hurt their bottom line, even when doing so comes at the expense of public safety. While the threat of money in politics is, perhaps, a more systemic issue with American politics at large, it is a major barrier to new and much-needed trucking safety regulations.
Although there are many factors behind increases in deadly truck accidents, from overloaded trucks to truck driver fatigue, experts resoundingly agree there are known and available technologies and safety measures that can reduce risks posed by the largest vehicles on our road. Ensuring they are passed and properly enforced, however, is a much more complex endeavor, and one advocates believe will require even more pressure to be placed on federal regulators.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Eisenberg, Gilchrist & Cutt Can Help.
Even as safety experts and federal regulators debate over how to improve trucking safety, commercial trucks continue to pose risks on public roads and highways – especially when truckers and trucking companies are negligent. If there is any silver lining to this unfortunate truth, it is that victims and families are not without rights – they have the ability to seek justice and compensation following preventable accidents, injuries, and deaths.
At Eisenberg, Gilchrist & Cutt, our Salt Lake City injury lawyers are dedicated to fighting on behalf of clients who are seriously injured in preventable auto accidents, as well as families who lose loved ones in crashes that could and should have been avoided. Because truck accident cases involve powerful corporations that want to limit their liability and potential payouts, we know victims require bold and aggressive attorneys who can fight for their interests, and the full amount of compensation they deserve. Learn how we may be able to help you with a potential case by contacting us for a FREE consultation.