On April 10, one of the worst tractor-trailer accidents in recent memory took place. The trucking accident involved a large FedEx tractor-trailer that crossed a freeway median and slammed into a school bus full of high school students. In the resulting fiery wreck, 10 people lost their lives. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash, and will not speculate on the causes of the wreck before all relevant information is gathered.
The NTSB has released a list of recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for improving the safety of tractor-trailers. While these recommendations were not made in response to the recent catastrophic tractor-trailer crash, they did happen to come out at a time when recent events highlight just how important it is to focus on commercial truck safety.
Blind spot mitigation, underride guard upgrades, improved data collection
The NTSB does not have rulemaking authority to require changes to safety regulations. But, as the federal agency tasked with investigating motor vehicle accidents and their causes, recommendations from the NTSB do carry some weight.
The new recommendations for tractor-trailer safety came about based on several studies conducted last year. On April 3, the NTSB detailed the recommendations in a letter to the Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The first recommendation was better blind spot mitigation. Tractor-trailers have large blind spots, a particularly problematic issue for road users who present a smaller visual profile; the NTSB found that more motorcyclists and cyclists lose their lives from colliding with the sides of large commercial trucks than with the fronts of them. Some of the proposed solutions are relatively simple and inexpensive, such as the installation of enhanced mirror systems. Others, like sensor technologies that alert tractor-trailer drivers when someone is in their blind spot, are more expensive and complex, but could nonetheless save many lives.
Two of the NTSB recommendation concerned underride protection systems. First, the NTSB recommended that all new tractor-trailers be equipped with a side underride protection system (side underride protection systems are not currently required). Second, while rear underride protection systems are already required, the NTSB believes that they should be upgraded with design updates and stronger materials.
Finally, the NTSB recommended better recordkeeping practices for tractor-trailer accidents. Most collisions with the sides or rears of large commercial trucks involve impacts to the trailers, but police accident report forms are not formatted to capture complete information on trailers. Many police accident report forms do not even include space for a trailer's vehicle identification number, information that can give researchers an idea of the trailer's characteristics and allow them to better evaluate the effectiveness of various safety measures.
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At this point, the NTSB recommendations are just that; only time will tell if they become federal regulations. While they are not yet mandatory, forward thinking trucking companies could pay attention and implement some of the changes on their own, potentially saving lives and preventing injuries.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident, or if you have lost a family member, you may be entitled to compensation. Call a trucking accident lawyer today to find out if you might have a case.