The National Transportation Safety Board has urged that tougher truck and trailer equipment safety standards be adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the result of a truck safety study the board conducted.
Although the NTSB is primarily engaged in accident investigations, over the years it has issued truck safety policy recommendations that caused changes in federal agency practices and regulations, and which have influenced legislation.
Earlier this year NTSB was highly critical of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s enforcement of truck safety. In April when she left office, former NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersmann hammered the point home in her departing remarks.
“We have to get the poor operators off the road before the crashes and not after,” Hersmann said. “It’s the bad companies that are not following the rules and they are actually creating unfair competition for the companies that do.”
In its recommendations to NHTSA, the board noted that side impacts constituted 15% and rear impacts 19% of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and cars in 2011. They are significant because such accidents defeat crumple zones, prevent air bag deployment and can compromise a vehicle’s safety cage, NTSB said.
To mitigate blind spots, NTSB urged that new trucks that are more than 26,000 pounds be equipped with visibility enhancement systems, like side view sensors that monitor blind spots when a turn signal is on, and with rear cameras to allow drivers see behind, especially when in reverse.
NTSB recommended that NHTSA require new trailers of more than 10,000 pounds new tractors and straight trucks of more than 26,000 pounds be equipped with side underride protection. It also said trailer rear underride standards NHTSA adopted in 1998 need to be revised and strengthened.
NTSB also said NHTSA should add trailer VIN numbers and model years to the fatality analysis reporting system for trailers of more than 10,000 pounds, a change the board said would allow for a more efficient analysis of accident data.