There’s always room for improvement when it comes to transportation safety. This is the premise the nation’s primary accident investigation organization operates under when it releases its annual most wanted list of safety improvements. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is responsible for investigating every aviation accident as well as significant highway, rail, maritime, and pipeline accidents each year.
Based upon findings in these accident investigations, the organization issues a list of the areas it believes need to be improved in order to protect lives. For 2017, the top ten list includes seven areas directly related to trucking.
Most Wanted List Includes Trucking Safety Improvement
Along with specific goals for aviation, hazardous material, and rail safety, the 2017 NTSB Most Wanted list includes the following:
- Increase implementation of crash avoidance technology. While we are seeing more of this type of technology in cars, the NTSB wants to see it implemented as soon as possible in commercial trucks. Collision warning and autonomous braking systems can make up for mistakes made by drowsy or distracted truck drivers.
- End alcohol and other drug impairment. A call to pass and enforce laws to end impaired driving applies to transportation safety across the board. The legalization of marijuana in many states and the increase in the use of over-the-counter medications has led to an increase in impaired driving accidents, especially among commercial truckers.
- Reduce fatigue-related accidents. Fatigued driving has been found to be just as dangerous as impaired driving. The NTSB calls for stricter adherence to required rest periods for commercial drivers and diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions that lead to sleep deprivation.
- Require medical fitness. Company owners and government regulators must enforce policies that ensure the health of truck drivers and other commercial transportation operators. Sleep apnea, obesity, chronic pain, and heart conditions can all compromise a driver’s ability to safely operate his vehicle. Regular medical exams must be required and drivers found to be unhealthy should be required to treat their illness before returning to work.
- Eliminate distractions. Whether a driver is a 16-year-old hauling three friends or a trucker hauling 40 tons, it's essential that he's completely focused on the task of driving. Truck drivers are frequently distracted by cell phones, navigation systems, and data logging, putting others on the road at risk. These distractions must be eliminated in 2017.
- Strengthen occupant protection. A passenger car doesn't stand a chance against an 80,000-pound big rig in a collision, but with improved safety systems in cars, the odds of passenger survival increase. The NTSB urges the continued development of occupant protection systems and design improvements to increase survivable spaces in cars.
- Expand recorder use. Currently, commercial trucks aren't required to have an event date recorder (EDR), also known as the “black box,” but many of them do. The NTSB encourages all trucking companies to install them and to use them, not only to determine the cause of a crash, but also to identify and correct safety concerns before a crash occurs.
While this might seem like just a wish list, it's in fact more than that. Once the NTSB has identified its top safety concerns for a given year, it will then focus on pushing lawmakers to make these specific issues a priority when passing legislation.
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