Every 60 seconds a motor vehicle accident occurs. With nearly 5.25 million accidents occurring each year, accounting for over 43,000 fatalities and 2.9 million injuries in the U.S., motor vehicle accidents serve as one of the leading causes of death in the world. 1
Who’s at Fault
Last Tuesday the American Trucking Associations (ATA) referred to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), acknowledging that out of 8,309 car/truck accidents studied, 81% of the time cars were at fault versus 27% in which truckers were to blame (equaling 108% due to the difference accounting for both cars and trucks at fault). 2
Whereas cars were at fault in “89 percent of head-on crashes; 88 percent of opposite-direction sideswipes; 80 percent of rear-end crashes, 72 percent of same-direction side-swipes and cited for two or more unsafe acts in an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Study,” trucks “were the encroaching vehicle in 98 percent of backing accidents, although this represented less than 1 percent of the sample set, and only 11% of truck drivers were cited for two or more unsafe acts.” 2
As ATA President Bill Graves notes, “It is tragic that carriers and drivers across this country are saddled with guilt and blame for many crashes they could do nothing to prevent.” 2
Shortly after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put into effect changes to the CSA’s Safety Measurement System last December, the ATA released a white paper explaining that “the CSA system lacks sufficient data on the majority of the industry to render meaningful scores for most motor carriers.” 3
According to the ATA, the FMCSA “has sufficient violation data to assess 40% of active carriers in at least one category but only enough to assign a percentile rank or score in at least one category to 12% of active carriers.” 3
The FMCSA is currently revising the crash weighting system explaining that they are continuing to “work with many partners, including the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), on a Crash Weighting Research Plan that outlines the research goals and approach to support an equitable mechanism for crash weighting,” expected to be completed this summer. 2 These goals include the following:
*“To determine whether Police Accident Reports (PARs) from across the nation provide sufficient, consistent and reliable information to support crash weighting determinations.” 2
*“To assess whether a carrier’s role in a crash is a stronger predictor of future crash risk than crash involvement alone, and, if so, how crash weighting should be implemented in the Safety Management System (SMS).” 2
*“To evaluate how the agency could use additional data in the determination process to allow for public input.” 2
Despite all of this, nearly 500,000 truck accidents occur in the U.S. annually, which is why proper safety measures need to be taken.
Accident Reduction Technology
While technology continues to exceed its boundaries, carriers are looking for new ways to keep their drivers, your freight, and everyone on the road, safe. Below is some of the anti-crash technology that Road Scholar Transport utilizes on our fleet.
In July of 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a ruling requiring an improved stopping distance for heavy trucks, reducing the distance of trucks traveling at 60 mph from 355 feet to 250 feet, allowing a minority of very heavy tractors a stopping distance of 310 feet.
The ruling, however, sparked the response of eight petitions based on four main issues. One of them, having to do with the stopping distance requirements, was challenged by the TMA, HDBMC, and Bendix, who believed that “speeds lower than 60 mph have not been validated through actual vehicle test data” and that “the brake timing may be too fast for some vehicle configurations.”
Therefore, the NHTSA was asked to remove the new requirements until tests could be conducted and results obtained. The NHTSA accepted and “required compliance with the improved stopping distance requirements for tractors with four or more axles and a GVWR of 59,600 pounds or less by August 1, 2013.”
Road Scholar Transport has ACB systems (Active Cruise with Braking) installed on our trucks that allows us to maintain a set distance of 8/10ths of a mile marker behind a forward vehicle.
When cruise control is off, the ACB will deliver a beeping alert, which gets faster and louder when closing in on a vehicle, as well as a visual warning on the dashboard showing how far the vehicle is from our truck.
When cruise control is on, the ACB will automatically reduce the throttle, use the engine retarder, or apply the brakes (delivering 1/3 the vehicle’s power but the driver can apply the rest if needed) in order to maintain a set distance from the vehicle ahead.
Imagine a truck or vehicle stalled in the middle of the road on a dark night with no lights on or a school bus that you could hardly see because of the thick morning fog. Or maybe a vehicle decides to slam their brakes in front of you to avoid hitting an animal crossing the road. Now imagine going 65 mph when one of the above circumstances occurs. Road Scholar’s applied ACB system allows our trucks to maintain the distance necessary to prevent accidents, and thus, delays and damages to your freight.
Last May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require electronic stability control (ESC) systems on heavy-duty trucks (GVW greater than 26,000 lbs) with a manufacturing year of 2016 (when the requirement would go into affect) and onward.
According to the NHTSA, stability control systems “would help prevent 40-56 percent of untripped rollovers and 14 percent of loss-of-control crashes.” 4
This system (also utilized by Road Scholar) is especially good for icy or wet weather conditions where wheels lose their grip, or taking a curve too quickly, which can result in a rollover. Drivers may not sense a rollover could be starting, which is where the ESP’s row and yaw stability sensors come into play. The row sensors work to prevent rollovers while yaw sensors prevent slide, spin, or jackknife situations.
The ESP automatically distinguishes the problem and quickly corrects it by reducing the engine throttle and applying the brakes.
Bendix explains the many sensors that supplement the wheel speed sensors which include:
-The steering angle sensor, which detects steering input, the first indicator of a maneuver.
-Brake pressure sensors, which monitor the amount of an operator’s braking.
-Lateral acceleration sensor, which detects the side force that could make the vehicle rollover.
-Yaw rate sensor, which helps determine if the vehicle is responding properly to driver steering input.
For a better understanding of how ESC systems work, check out the video below.
Do you believe that accident-reduction in the trucking industry lies more with agencies establishing stricter rules/regulations, carriers installing safety technology to their fleet, brokers/shippers properly vetting out safe carriers, or all of the above? List your comments below.