It’s time: Commercial truck crash study to be updated

Because Birmingham has several interstate highways going through and around the city, those of us who live here understand the economic benefits to the area of tractor-trailers bringing in and carrying out needed goods. Unfortunately, there are far too many 18-wheeler crashes that result in severe injuries and fatalities.

Updating crash research

Federal trucking regulators will soon launch a $30 million study to determine the causes of large truck crashes and thereby help both truckers and big rig manufacturers to reduce crashes.

The Large-Truck Crash Causal Factors study will update research conducted nearly 18 years ago. It is to focus on how driver behavior, roadway designs, vehicle safety features and technological advances affect the likelihood of large commercial truck wrecks.

Looking at driver behavior

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistician Jenny Guarino says the research will have “an evolutionary focus moving from crashworthiness to crash avoidance.” She adds that the study will provide crucial data on the roles of pre-crash factors such as driver behavior.

Safety advocates say the federal study is overdue. Fatal collisions involving large commercial trucks have been steadily increasing since 2009. They say there’s a need for updated crash data and analyses.

Guarino says updated “data will greatly increase our knowledge about causation and related factors sufficient to create countermeasures through legislation, regulation, enforcement and education.”

Causes of crashes

As we know from past research, commercial truck crashes caused by truckers often involve one or more of the following:

  • Fatigue: Truckers’ pay typically includes incentives to transport cargo from Point A to Point B in as little time as possible, which can mean long hauls with little or no sleep.
  • Training: Insufficient knowledge of defensive driving and safety techniques.
  • Impairment: Unfortunately, some truckers use amphetamines in order to stay awake on their long drives.
  • Speed: This factor can also be related to compensation structures that indirectly encourage fatigued truckers to drive at excess speeds despite the crash risks.

Don’t forget distractions

Another pre-crash factor that could figure prominently in the research: distracted driving. Texting, surfing, streaming, gaming, etc. on cellphones have all exponentially increased in the nearly 18 years since the previous study.

As we all know, distracted driving has in that period become one of the leading causes of car accidents, so it will be instructive to know if distractions are found to be a major cause of tractor-trailer crashes as well.

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