A new Large Truck Crash Causal Factors study is about to be underway as federal regulators move forward with plans to find updated data regarding large truck-related crashes throughout the United States.
According to a recent presentation given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this updated study will allow researchers to gather information replacing the data collected in a similar study nearly two decades ago. The $30 million updated study will help researchers find all factors that may play into a dangerous crash–including everything from driver behavior and roadway design to technology innovations and overall vehicle safety.
The study will aim to bring about “an evolutionary focus moving from crashworthiness to crash avoidance,” explained FMCSA statistician, Jenny Guarino. According to Guarino, who explained the intentions of this research in a recent virtual presentation hosted by FMCSA, noted that although the study is in its early developmental stages, it will work to find ways of boosting overall crash avoidance and that it has the potential to save lives across the country.
The main goal of these research efforts will be to present important data regarding the driver behaviors and technology issues that contribute to a crash–data that could help researchers determine and create solutions to such pre-crash factors that may be at play in order to bring an end to large-truck crashes making our nation’s roads a dangerous place.
Additionally, the information found in this study could aid in the development of innovative trucking tech and automation, as well as influence future rule-making for the industry as a whole. There is also a hope that the data will be applicable to crash causal factors research regarding passenger vehicles, as well.
“The data will greatly increase our knowledge about causation and related factors sufficient to create countermeasures through legislation, regulation, enforcement, and education,” Guarino explained, adding that updated analysis into these causal factors is vital right now as the industry undergoes so many changes and upgrades in regards to vehicle safety and technology, roadway designs, and driver behavior. Large truck-related fatal crashes have been on an incline since 2009, and all of these continuous innovations and changes directly affect their severity. Therefore, this kind of vitally important data must always stay up-to-date.
In fact, FMCSA has been working to conduct research of this kind since January of 2020, when it first requested input regarding the potential design for a study of this kind. The agency received 167 comments responding to its information request from stakeholders, academics, and industry experts, the majority of which made clear their support for a new method of study design that would adequately and accurately represent the country as a whole.
Additionally, FMCSA sought after information in regards to how best to implement comprehensive data sources, ranges of crash types and severity, cost efficiency concerns, and the intention to obtain a widely-representative sample.
One particular concern, brought to light last year by National Transportation Safety Board project manager, Ryan Smith, is the challenges that may arise while attempting to collect and understand substantial data in regards to drivers using marijuana and drivers that are otherwise impaired. This worry comes from well-known difficulties surrounding usage and overall understanding of the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s data.
The crash causation study that was released more than 17 years ago focused on detailed large-truck crashes that took place between April of 2001 and December of 2003, and aimed to find a fully-representative sample within that timeframe. In this study sample, each crash analyzed included either a fatality or injury and at least one large truck.
This study collected data from a sample of 963 crashes involving 959 non-large-truck vehicles (which showed 249 fatalities and 1,654 injuries) and involving 1,123 large-truck vehicles (77 percent of which were tractors pulling one semi-trailer, and another 5 percent were trucks carrying hazardous materials). Out of all 963 crashes, 73 percent involved at least one large truck hitting at least one other vehicle.
In this updated study, FMCSA is planning to conduct research over four separate phases. It is currently in its first phase, and the second will involve clearance from the Office of Management and Budget, development of information technology, and overall planning for the rest of the study.
In its third phase, the study will collect its data regarding 2,000 crashes analyzed within 32 different sites across the country–this phase is likely to begin in January 2022 and take another two years. In the final phase, the agency will conduct thorough data analysis, write its final report, and release it to the public.