People Will Continue to Die in Truck Accidents Until Truck Safety Is Required

Archives, Trucking Accidents

With all the pyrotechnics of a Hollywood movie, last week in Nevada a semi-trailer skidded the length of a football field before driving through a crossing gate’s housing unit and into two double-decker cars on an Amtrak train.

According to an Associated Press article, the truck driver and five other people died. The article doesn’t say how many people suffered serious personal injuries and whose lives – emotionally and financially – may be changed forever.

The article does say that the Nevada trucking company has been cited repeatedly by state authorities for crashes, unsafe driving, and vehicle maintenance violations, including operating a truck with tires so bald the truck had to be taken off the road immediately.

And this was not the first time this company injured someone in a truck accident. A motor vehicle accident in February 2010 also resulted in an injured person.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Advanced Safety Technology Tax Act of 2011 was introduced to the United States Senate on June 20, 2011 and to the House of Representatives May 4, 2011. It would provide owners of commercial trucks, buses, and commercial motor vehicle fleets with a tax credit for installing advanced safety technologies into their rigs.

These safety devices were identified by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance as able to provide significant safety benefits. Though the federal government has been recommending for years that owners of trucks, big rigs, semi-trailers, tractor trailers, buses, and other commercial motor vehicles voluntarily install these devices, they are not required to do so.

Recommended safety devices include:

  • Brake Stroke Monitoring Systems: relays critical information about air brake adjustment and operational status and can detect major brake problems in real time.
  • Lane Departure Warning Systems: in-vehicle electronic systems that monitor the position of a truck within a lane on a roadway and warns the driver if he moves out of the middle of the lane he is traveling in.
  • Collision Warning Systems: a radar-based system that mounted on the truck’s front bumper can reduce the opportunity for rear end collisions. If a truck is getting too close to a motor vehicle or other object in front of it, there is an auditory or visual warning to the driver so he will slow down. If a collision is deemed imminent, the system automatically de-throttles the engine and applies the truck’s brakes. The system also includes an automatic cruise control component that supplements the truck’s normal cruise control by automatically attempting to maintain a safe following distance between the truck and the motor vehicle in front of it.
  • Vehicle Stability Systems: on-board sensors help to decrease rollovers due to excessive speed on a curve and loss of control situations due to instability.

The bottom line is that owners of commercial vehicles who put badly maintained trucks out on the road – such as the Nevada trucking company now under scrutiny for the fiery crash with an Amtrak train – will not spend the money to install these lifesaving devices into their trucks unless required to by law.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in an April 2010 study of these safety devices that they have “the potential to prevent or mitigate more than 1 of every 4 large truck crashes, 1 of every 3 injury crashes, and about 1 of 5 fatal crashes.”

This act, if passed, helps truck owners. That’s fine. Now where is the law or regulation to force them to do it in order to save people’s lives?