The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in the rate of truck crashes. There have been a few ideas as to the cause of this increase, but now the government has opened an investigation to get to the bottom of the issue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is launching a comprehensive study that will research the causes of truck crashes. The goal of this study is to gather information on better enforcement in the future by prioritizing the right things on the road.
The last time the FMCSA conducted a study like this was 2001-03. After that study was conducted, the number of fatal large truck crashes decreased every year through 2009. That year saw 2,893 fatal large truck crashes, the lowest in quite some time. However, the number began to increase after that year, nearly doubling by 2018 with 4,415 fatal large truck crashes. With numbers rising, the FMCSA is conducting the study again to gain insight into what is causing these crashes and how they can be prevented in the future.
Attorney Jeff Shiver of Shiver Hamilton says, “Having more information on what is distracting drivers and causing crashes will make it possible to protect people in the future. We have seen many cases in previous years, so this study comes at a necessary time.”
The new study will use multiple methods of collecting data to gather a full picture of what is happening on the road with large trucks. While the study is still in the developmental stage, it will be conducted similarly to the previous study. Researchers plan to collect crash data from accident reports and electronic recording devices that are onboard the truck, as well as conducting interviews and surveying truck drivers. In a request for information, the FMCSA asked for public input on several questions:
- Should FMCSA pursue a nationally representative sampling approach, or can convenience sampling serve the needs?
- What type of study are you recommending (for example, nationally representative vs. convenience sampling), and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
- How important is it for the new study results to be comparable with findings of the original development of the 2001-03 study?
- What other sources of data can enrich the new study? How can they be identified and included?
There are several factors that are thought to be potential drivers of the high national crash numbers. Primarily, the increased use of cellphones is likely to be contributing to the number of crashes. Additionally, other technologies in the cabs of trucks such as navigation systems and fleet management systems could be a distraction. All of this technology, new to drivers since the last study, are thought to be large contributors to truck crashes.
One of the ways this research can help is by informing truck developers of driver habits. If they find out where drivers may need more intervention inside the cab, they can use that knowledge to develop safer driving technology. With various new levels of automated driving technology, there will be more opportunities to reduce large truck crashes in the future. Automated Driving Systems (ADS), in fact, have already been installed in some trucks. Therefore, this study is an opportunity to evaluate its effectiveness and identify the areas in which these systems can be improved in the future.