There is always room for more safety in trucking. While we acknowledge trucking is a safe, secure and lucrative career, the fact is you are driving around tens of thousands of pounds. Anything can happen out on the open road and safety is paramount.
From decaying roads to unwieldy equipment, boredom, fatigue or other distractions, there are so many levels of trucking safety. As a result, manufacturers and industry players are doing everything they can to improve safety.
Thanks to a renewed interest in comprehensive truck driver training and better big rig design, the focus on safety is as intense as it’s ever been.
The Raw Numbers
Note that large Class 8 commercial motor vehicles are driving more miles than ever before, but fatal accidents are occurring at a much slower pace. According to a report compiled by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the rate of deadly vehicle crashes per 100 million miles traveled sank by almost 50 percent between 2000 and 2012.
Still, large truck collisions caused over 4,000 fatalities in 2014 alone. Even as safety numbers get better and incidents drop, when accidents still occur, safety can be improved upon.
The primary reason for all this is that large trucks are tricky to operate. They are huge and elongated. The huge tonnage they are hauling makes them prone to rollovers. Nearly half of all deaths and injuries related to truck crashes occur because of a rollover.
Traveling at 65 mph, a big rig needs 525 feet to come to a full stop. Compare that with 316 feet for a passenger vehicle.
And did you know that air bags and other basic safety features that you see all the time in passenger cars aren’t legally required for semi trucks? Most trucks don’t utilize automatic emergency braking, though that is starting to change.
Collision avoidance systems are becoming more commonplace than ever, alongside adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and blind-spot detection. Manufacturers are also working on stronger underride guard rails. These help keep other vehicles from jamming underneath the truck or trailer in the event of an accident.
In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began requiring that a passenger riding in a large commercial motor vehicle must wear their seat belt when said vehicle is operating on a public road.
Regulators across the pond are going even further than the FMCSA. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said that trucks operating without a clear view of the road will be banned from the city after 2020.
As lawmakers weigh in, so do industry players. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is pushing for a crashworthiness standard for large trucks. Although the government has not proposed any specific laws to address the issue, it remains on the ATA’s docket.
Manufacturers are taking on a measure of responsibility by rolling out technologies designed to enhance a big rig’s safety profile.
Freightliner has introduced steering wheel air bags for over 20 years. They’ve been optioning roll protection technology for almost 10. And yet fewer than 5 percent of their clients request those modifications.
Disc brakes fare better, selling on around 17 percent of Freightliner’s front axles. Although disc brakes are more expensive, they last longer. The company’s newest model offers brake assist, a windshield-mounted camera, lane departure warnings and a radar system.
Mack Trucks offers anti-lock brakes, adaptive cruise control and automated manual transmissions, allowing the truck driver to focus on the road, rather than shifting.
How will the big rig safety landscape look in the next ten years? Frankly, it’s anyone’s guess, but as the push towards zero fatalities intensifies, expect to see the big rig of the future look a lot different from the big rig of today.