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New Trucking Safety Technologies Discussed at Senate Hearing

In recent years, an array of trucking safety technologies has been introduced. These technologies include electronic logging devices (ELDs), lane departure warning systems, and dashcams are but a few of the systems that have been voluntarily introduced by some trucking firms or mandated by Congress or its agencies. Many of these technologies are proven to mitigate trucking accident injuries and prevent deaths. However, despite the introduction of at least some of the above-mentioned safety technologies, traffic deaths and fatalities linked to truck and large bus accidents continue to increase.

New Jersey Senator Corey Booker Expresses Concern over Increasing Frequency of Trucking Deaths

During the subcommittee hearing, Senator Corey Booker expressed concern that, despite efforts to address serious accidents involving large trucks and buses, collisions have continued to increase year-over-year. Senator Booker indicated that one reason behind the increasing number of crashes could be attributed to the still improving economy. Senator Booker seems to suggest that, as the economy improves, an ever-increasing number of trucks are making their way onto roads and highways. While these cars and trucks are a key component in getting goods from ports to the store shelves, they can also cause serious accidents due to their immense size and weight.

Senator Booker noted several pressing problems regarding commercial drivers and trucks currently impacting highway safety. The Senator notes, “It’s not getting better, and we’re seeing a frightening increase [in accidents]. We have to make sure tired drivers are not getting behind the wheel, and we have to have only the safest trucks on the road. That means proper inspections, not having faulty brakes and not getting longer, heavier trucks on the highways.” The issues noted by the Senator are:

  • Far too many fatigued drivers are on the nation’s roads and highways. While hours-of-service and rest rules are intended to mitigate this risk, certain aspects of these rules are on hold due to trucking industry lobbying.
  • Chameleon carriers and reincarnated carriers that avoid mandatory vehicle inspections and repairs are a major problem. These types of trucking firms “shut down” after violations are detected only to open again as a new entity.
  • The senator also identifies heavy and long trucks as another major problem affecting trucking safety. Since roughly 2010, Senator Collins from Maine has spearheaded a number of efforts to increase the permitted maximum size and weight of trucks on highways. Today, trucks weighing as much as 100,000 pounds can legally travel on highways.

These issues general reflect problems that can be addressed through legislation or technology. For instance, the chameleon character issue is probably best combatted through a revamp of registration systems that screen for reincarnated carriers and individuals associated with shut-down trucking firms.

However, the subcommittee also discussed the issue presented by distracted driving. It was noted that distracted drivers are more than 20 times more likely to be involved in a crash.  At the hearing, the chief of National Transportation Safety Board remarked that “We need a culture change when it comes to distracted driving like we had with drunk driving years ago. It’s not cool to be drunk anymore. We need a similar change in culture for distracted driving from cell phones.” Thus, there is recognition that this is actually one area where technology cannot solve the issue because it is the driver of the problem. While the proliferation of handheld electronic devices has had many positive impacts, highway safety is not one of them. The statements made here seems to suggest that additional public education and awareness campaign is being considered to combat distracted driving.

What Life-Saving Trucking Technologies Have been Introduced in Recent Years?

The hearing also delved into assessing the cost-benefit of the introduction of various accident prevention technologies. Technologies addressed included electronic logging devices (ELDs) which were introduced in 2010, collision avoidance and automatic transmission systems in 2013,  and dashcams in 2015. ELDs are intended to promote hours of service compliance since it is believed it is significantly more difficult to falsify electronic records. Collision avoidance systems can correct mistakes made by a driver and prevent a truck from sideswiping another vehicle. Dash cams promote accountability since the truck driver knows that all actions are recorded and aggressive or reckless behaviors cannot simply be explained away or mischaracterized.

Unfortunately, trucking company representatives failed to quantify the exact costs of these initiatives. However, representatives for one company did indicate that implementation of these technologies has reduced accidents thereby saving the company money and the potential of a “nuclear” verdict. However, far too many trucking firms continue to cut corners and place profits over safety. If you have suffered a serious injury due to a fatigued driver, insufficient maintenance, or other careless or reckless actions the Truck accident lawyers of Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team may be able to help.

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