As has been reported, a number of serious accidents involving tour busses and trucks have occurred over the past several weeks. The National Transportation Safety Board held a forum last month to hear from federal regulators, safety experts, and the truck and bus industries about what is being done to prevent deadly accidents on our nation’s highways.
NHTSA also wanted to know why past safety recommendations — some of them decades old — haven’t been enacted. In 2009 there were 3,200 deaths in accidents involving big trucks. Big tour buses average about 20 deaths a year to passengers out of more than 700 million passenger trips a year in the U.S. According to reports, between 2000 and 2009 tour buses were involved in 338 fatal crashes.
The Obama administration has made several proposals to toughen bus and truck regulation. One proposal would require equipping trucks and buses with devices that record how many hours drivers are behind the wheel. As much as one-third of all commercial motor vehicle crashes are due to fatigue, according to NTSB. The Administration also wants to reduce the daily limit drivers may spend behind the wheel from 11 hours to ten hours. The proposal also would require mandatory rest breaks, limit the overall work day to 14 hours and require that drivers be given more time off to rest when they’ve reached their weekly driving limit of 60 hours.
Opposition from the trucking industry has been a real stumbling block for change and that has slowed things down. The industry is opposing Congress giving the states authority to raise weight limits on trucks on interstate highways to nearly 100,000 pounds and extend truck lengths. The trucking industry, as well as shippers, can make more money if they can ship more products using fewer trucks and drivers. But bigger trucks are harder to stop quickly and can create a hazard on the roadways because of their size and weight when loaded.
Safety advocates say it is just as important to ensure passengers can survive a crash when one occurs. The NTSB has been pushing for years for stronger bus roofs that won’t crush in rollover accidents, better emergency exits, better fire protection and windows that prevent passengers from being ejected. They also want trucks and buses to have some of the safety technology that’s available on many cars and on buses in other countries. That includes electronic stability control to prevent rollovers, adaptive cruise control that automatically adjusts speed to traffic, warning systems that alert drivers when they’re drifting into another lane, and warning systems that alert drivers to an impending collision. The NTSB has about 100 bus safety recommendations that haven’t been filled.
Source: Insurance Journal
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