In 2017, the FMCSA decided to scrap several new rules and regulations set to go into effect governing safety initiatives. Yet, this year, they aren’t just ignoring safety. They have embarked on many tests and studies designed to figure out why truck fatalities on our nation’s roads are on the rise.
Today, we will look at the different safety tests and initiatives the FMCSA is undertaking to bring some clarity to the situation. With technology on the mind and the future approaching, they want to know if the trucking industry can remain safe in the face of near-constant change.
Testing Autonomous Technology
The first area the FMCSA is looking to test and come to a better conclusion on is that of autonomous trucking. The FMCSA believes that autonomous and semi-autonomous technologies may go a long way to significantly reducing crashes and injuries. With trucking accidents on the rise, the agency doesn’t seek to displace the truck driver, but rather bring a new level of safety to trucking through automation.
With autonomous and semi-autonomous trucking on everyone’s mind, a potential revolution is around the corner. Several studies underway in a few states are being implemented with the FMCSA’s implicit backing, including those in Ohio and Nevada.
Still, with autonomous truck driving now entering a critical evaluation phase, what’s next for the FMCSA when it comes to testing and evaluation?
Incremental Changes on the Horizon
While the FMCSA doesn’t plan to revisit many of the Obama administration’s trucking rules, they may make some minor adjustments to the rules currently in place. And while there won’t be a new safety rating system overhaul coming any time soon, the FMCSA is beginning a two-year-long study examining whether the safety measurement system (SMS) is doing what it was intended to do.
The FMCSA is also going to look at changes and ways to strengthen industry cybersecurity and increase adoption of certain safety technologies, from better braking systems to complementary technologies to increase the awareness of areas where truck drivers can both rest and take a break in case they are bumping up against their hours.
Still, these are merely tests, methods by which the agency can make better determinations regarding future rules. Since the Trump administration has embarked on a mission to remove lots of regulations, it is likely that these initiatives will remain in the testing phase until more concrete data can be discerned.
Is the Economy to Blame
One of the primary factors why comprehensive testing is required can be traced back to an improving economy. As the nation’s economic conditions have gotten better, more trucks are on the road, which itself can lead to more accidents. To determine if the problem is with the volume of trucks or something else, the FMCSA has embarked on these new testing regimes.
Evidence of a potential economic component can be seen in the fact that from 2006 to 2009, there was an overall decline in fatal accidents involving trucks. There could also be a correlation between the number of new truck drivers on the road and the increase in accidents.
Yet, as the federal government gets ready to take up a new debate surrounding state’s rights, infrastructure, and so much more, the trucking industry and related issues are going to come into more focus. Will safety be at the top of the minds of those making the regulatory decisions? The only way to find out is to see what 2018 brings. And we can promise we will be right here reporting on it for you.