On May 17, 2022, the Truck Safety Coalition released a statement regarding “record-high 2021 NHTSA large truck projected fatalities,” in which they expressed extreme concern over the rising fatality rates in truck accidents.

Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) releases a report on traffic accidents and fatalities, and it usually takes about a year for the report to be issued after the close of the calendar year that the report covers. 

In May 2022, however, the NHTSA released its early estimates for 2021 truck crash data, and the numbers are shocking. The data shows that truck crash fatalities increased by a staggering 13% in 2021. The current NHTSA estimate is that more than 5,600 people, including truck drivers, lost their lives in large truck accidents last year. The Truck Safety Coalition is leading the demand for change and pleading with everyone to take truck safety more seriously.

Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021

Vehicle accident fatalities are at a 16-year high, based on the 2021 NHTSA data. Almost 43,000 drivers and passengers on the road were killed in collisions last year, which is more than a 10% increase from 2020. This is the highest rate of traffic fatalities since 2005, and the largest increase in one year that the NHTSA has ever reported.

This year’s truck crash data shows a 52% increase in fatal truck accidents since 2010. Something has to change, and soon. Every day that goes by means other lives are being lost unnecessarily.

Government Introduces New Program to Prevent Roadway Fatalities

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its National Roadway Safety Strategy this year, with the resources for this new program provided through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This program will pour 6 billion dollars over 5 years into local-level efforts to reduce vehicle accidents. 

The program’s “Safe System Approach” has 5 main objectives: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg calls for a combined effort between motorists, vehicle manufacturers, lawmakers, and law enforcement to lower the rate of accidents with injuries and fatalities.

The DOT is increasing roadside commercial vehicle safety inspections to identify trucking companies, vehicles, and operators that pose a high risk of causing truck accidents. 

Truck Safety Coalition Demands Additional Changes

While a lot is being done, the DOT is primarily focused on bringing down the overall vehicle crash rate, whereas the Truck Safety Coalition, on the other hand, is understandably focused on the rise of fatal truck accidents specifically. The rate of deadly truck accidents is climbing faster than the rate of other fatal vehicle accidents, and has been for a while now.

The Truck Safety Coalition is demanding additional changes be made to help protect truck drivers, as well as the drivers and passengers of other vehicles on the road. Here are some of the changes they’re advocating:

  1. Require Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) on all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

Requiring automatic emergency braking on all commercial motor vehicles could save countless lives, as difficulty braking or slow braking are among the biggest causes of catastrophic truck accidents.

This technology monitors the road ahead of the truck and automatically employs the brakes if the truck driver fails to brake on their own in enough time to avoid an accident. AEB may sound futuristic, but it’s been around since 2009, so there’s no reason not to implement this technology. 

Advanced driver assistance systems monitor the road around the vehicle and provide warnings if there is another vehicle in the way when drivers go to change lanes or turn. ADAS can also include other aids like night vision and a more safe form of cruise control. Technological safeguards like AEB and ADAS can greatly reduce fatal truck accidents caused by human error, but truck companies have been slow to adopt these systems, ultimately to save money. Hopefully, with persistent advocacy, these safeguards will become a requirement for all commercial motor vehicles.

  1. Require front and side underride guards on all CMVs.

Underride guards are steel bars that are suspended from the bottom of large trucks to stop smaller vehicles from sliding under the truck in an accident. They’re nowhere near as expensive to implement as the AEB and ADAS systems, as they’re just steel bars, and yet they’re only present on the back of trucks. 

The Truck Safety Coalition is calling for all commercial motor vehicles to be required to have underride guards on the front and sides as well. When a smaller vehicle gets into an accident with a large truck, it’ll almost certainly become fatal if the smaller vehicle slides under the commercial truck. Rear underride guards prevent this from occurring in rear accidents, but front and side underride guards could further reduce fatal truck accidents.

  1. Complete proposed rulemaking on the use of speed limiters in CMVs.

There have been proposed rules for a while suggesting that CMVs should have tamper-proof speed limiters. Some companies, like Walmart, have already adopted this. They limit all of their commercial trucks to 65 miles per hour. But officially, there is no hard and fast law requiring speed limiters nationwide. 

Adding speed limiters to all commercial motor vehicles could greatly reduce fatal truck accidents by reducing the speed of the truck in an accident. When a truck gets into an accident, the force of the truck hitting the other vehicle is determined by the mass times the acceleration. If you reduce the acceleration, you reduce the force of the accident. 

Rulemaking on the use of speed limiters should be completed to reduce fatal truck accidents, according to the Truck Safety Coalition.

  1. Raise the commercial motor carrier minimum insurance requirements as outlined in the Insurance Act of 2021.

Raising the commercial motor carrier minimum insurance requirements would increase the amount of insurance the average commercial truck driver has, which would allow for more complete repairs to the CMVs and allow for more financial compensation for victims of truck accidents. These requirements were outlined in the Insurance Act of 2021 and should be implemented immediately to help reduce the number of fatal truck accidents on American roadways. 

We have to do more to keep our roads safe, because we’re losing too many lives to truck and motor vehicle accidents. These tragedies are preventable if we work together. To achieve this, the Truck Safety Coalition thinks it’s time for truck commercial motor vehicle safety requirements to be increased. 

If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, we can help. At Carner & DeVita, our Long Island truck accident lawyers can help you get justice after a truck accident. Call (631) 543-7070 to schedule a free case consultation.

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