Safety Advocates Say the Time to Act to Reduce Fatal Truck Crashes is Now

Despite the fact that more than 4,300 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2016, 28 percent more than in 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has failed to mandate changes that might have averted the rear-end truck collisions that often end in tragedy.

According to a recent Kansas City Star editorial, the NHTSA has ignored requests from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to take action to prevent trucks from rear-ending other vehicles. Although large commercial trucks crash into other vehicles in a multitude of ways, rear-end collisions often prove to be the most devastating, but can be the easiest to prevent with modern technology.

The NTSB has been calling for the NHTSA to mandate forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems on all large trucks since the late 1990s, technology in the form of automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems that is now standard on many new cars. The NHTSA has failed to comment on why it has not followed through on the NTSB’s recommendations. According to the automobile industry, by 2022 this safety equipment will be standard on all new passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. In comparison, the trucking industry is lagging far behind.

Only a small percentage of heavy trucks now have such collision avoidance technology installed, and no long-term commitment to mandate it has been made. But according to companies that have deployed the equipment in their fleets, today’s forward collision avoidance systems can prevent more than seven out of 10 rear-end truck collisions. While some large trucking companies have the willingness and the ability to pay for optional safety equipment to update their fleets, many others are unwilling to spend thousands of dollars on safety improvements that they are not currently required to make.

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