Daily Archives: July 23, 2018

Critical Ways Trucking Safety Can Be Improved

It is no secret that tractor-trailers competing with passenger cars on our nation’s roads and highways can potentially invite disaster. In fact, deaths from crashes involving large trucks and passenger cars have been rising since 2016. While it could be attributed to lots more newer truck drivers on the road, the fact is, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deaths are up 5.4% from the same period in 2015.

Yet, more can still be done. Research clearly proves that advanced safety systems continue to reduce crashes as they continue to be installed on more and more passenger vehicles. Systems like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are making a big difference in preventing crashes and saving lives.

More on the Problem

The problem is, we are not yet seeing enough adoption of these devices on large commercial motor vehicles. Far too many big rigs on the road today are too old and simply predate the advent of these new safety technologies. In fact, according to some estimates, only around 15% of large commercial motor vehicle fleets in the United states are using advances safety systems on their rigs.

Unfortunately, it is also estimated that over 100,000 crashes per year – a quarter of those involving large commercial motor vehicles – could be prevented if systems such as blind spot warnings and stability control were standard on semi-trucks. Many argue, and rightfully so, that these technologies should be prioritized for trucks before cars. With up to 80,000 pounds barreling down the road, no safety stone should be left unturned.

There are two types of safety systems used on trucks. One alerts truck drivers of dangers, whether it be a potential collision or lane departure, and the other helps to prevent collisions, whether through emergency braking or turn assist. Many say truck manufacturers need to make these features much more readily available on the equipment they sell.

On the other side are trucking organizations that point to swift OEM action to adopt these technologies. They feel more regulation is not necessary. Technology is wonderful, but it cannot replace an experienced and skilled truck driver. What is more, trucking advocacy organizations point to the fact that more large truck accidents are caused by the drivers of passenger cars than they are by the truck driver, which research proves.

Yet, with safety technology showing widespread adoption among passenger vehicles, some openly wonder why trucking accidents and deaths are on the rise. One major consideration is the improving economy. More passenger cars and trucks are on our nation’s roads, which increases the chances for an accident.

Big Shippers Make Moves

One way to ensure we see swift adoption is to see big companies get in the game. As one example, United Parcel Service has been retrofitting a lot of their older vehicles with new, advanced safety systems. UPS now says that nearly half of their fleet is outfitted with collision-mitigation systems and they are hoping to see that number inch towards 70% by 2020.

FedEx and DHL have already made similar moves. But how much movement towards greater adoption remains to be seen. With the American Trucking Associations (ATA) coming out strongly against regulation mandating adoption, many companies may be sitting on the sidelines. It might take more prodding to get them to jump in.

Cost is another factor. Owner-operators and small fleets may not have the capital requirements necessary to procure the equipment. Many owner-operators point to million-mile records without an accident, but is this enough? Clearly, with more people hitting the roads, more needs to be done to ensure large commercial motor vehicles continue to see widespread safety technology adoption.

 

A New Corrective Action Plan For CSA Is Revealed

Have you heard? The FMCSA has released a mandated ‘corrective action plan’ for the much-maligned CSA program. But what does this mean?

The Details

On July 16 the FMCSA announced that they had delivered what they called a “Correlation Study Corrective Action Plan” for the CSA program. The report was delivered to Congress. The new corrective action plan will outline how the agency will address recommendations made in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on improving the safety measurements the federal government uses to rank motor carriers.

The report examined how effective the percentile ranks given under SMS actually identifies high-risk carriers and what to do if the answer to that is not much. The report also takes a look at the accuracy of the data entered into the SMS database. Researchers were tasked with discovering other approaches to singling out high-risk fleets more effectively. Finally, they wanted to know how effective making the SMS information public has been on lessening the number of crashes recorded.

It is useful to note that the agency has already removed the SMS preview website from public view. This preview website contained changes that the agency was going to propose regarding SMS. Since the changes were released before the NAS report, they are moot.

There were six key elements in the NAS study that the agency addressed in their report to Congress. At the top of the list was the methodology the FMCSA uses to approach the data. NAS openly wondered if the methodology used by the FMCSA was not scientific enough in its modeling approach. They specifically mentioned an “Item Response Theory” approach to making the SMS system more fair and accurate.

What is IRT-Based?

With an IRT-based approach, the agency hopes that they can get an accurate measure of the ‘safety culture’ from fleet to fleet, rather than a zero-sum game of identification and intervention. This approach was further pushed late last year by the FMCSA’s Director of Compliance and Enforcement during a conference in Florida.

The agency states within their action plan that they would proceed with developing and testing an IRT model program. Of course, they would still receive public input on important measures, but they hope the IRT model will streamline and better inform the rule and regulations the agency does or does not decide to move forward with.

There is also a push to ensure that the quality of data within SMS is uncorrupted. A more frequent and much more detailed VMT data would provide much greater insight. Right now, the FMCSA only collects VMT data every couple of years. There is also no interoperability or communication between state and federal systems. More frequent collection of and collaboration with VMT data at the state and federal level stands to benefit everyone.

Finally, the agency wants to ensure it gives stakeholders proper consideration. Input must come not just from public comment, but from insurance companies, shippers, receivers, and just about anyone else making freight move within the transportation sector.

After the program is put together, FMCSA will create values based off of the IRT model to determine what information is relevant for the SMS system. Their goal is to have a small-scale model of the program ready to go by September of 2018.

How will all of this inform the next generation of CSA and SMS deployment? We will have to wait until the outcome of the FMCSA’s own internal studies before knowing which way the pendulum will swing on this issue.