For years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has faced a bevy of criticism for failing to institute stricter training requirements for operators of large commercial trucks. That criticism has turned into action, according to the New York Times, which reports that safety advocates and at least one labor union has filed suit in federal court over FMCSA’s lack of progress. It seems it was only a matter of time.
In a span of ten years, says the Times, Congress has twice ordered the FMCSA make changes to its training measures, only to see the FMCSA bypass the requisite deadlines. The federal organization has made incremental improvements over the last decade, but not enough to satisfy a growing contingent of safety groups and those who say the FMCSA’s so-called improvements are akin to a running joke. Currently the FMCSA requires a minimum of ten hours in the classroom and a driving test before allowing drivers with big rigs onto the road, only after the “relatively simple process” of filing for a commercial license.
That doesn’t satisfy people like Henry Jansy, general counsel at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, who took a harsh line with the FMCSA, saying “There’s just no excuse anymore. This should be basic stuff. People are dying because of the lack of training out there.”
Making matters worse for the FMCSA is the rising number of fatalities related to large commercial trucks. The Times points out that traffic related fatalities have reached a new low, however accidents involving large trucks have steadily increased; fatalities are up by four percent and serious injuries up by 18 percent since 2012. Based on data from the Transportation Department, an additional 200,000 accidents with large trucks caused damage but no injuries.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) reports that Illinois tractor-trailer accidents account for nearly 11% of traffic deaths over the last five years. In 2005, Illinois eighteen-wheeler accidents caused a little more than 200 of the nearly 2000 total traffic fatalities.
Some safety points to note from the IDOT:
In Illinois, fatal crashes between trucks and other vehicles most often occur:
- On Tuesday through Friday, between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., when the weather is clear and the road is dry
- Due to speed or improper lane use
- When the truck driver is between 28-43 years old and the driver of the other vehicle is between 20-30 years old
- When the driver (of the truck OR the other vehicle) has fallen asleep or has been drinking
Avoid these four blind spots when driving near or around a large vehicle:
- Don’t return to the driving lane until you can see the entire front of the truck in your rearview mirror
- If you can’t see one of the truck drivers’ side mirrors, he or she can’t see you either
- If you can’t see the truck driver in one of your side mirrors, he or she can’t see you
- Don’t enter the area between the curb or shoulder and the truck if the truck is signaling a turn
Additional safety points:
Some other safety information to be aware of when you encounter larger vehicles on the road include things like weight difference, the risk of underride and override, stopping distance, and “splash and spray.”
Reviewing and remembering these basic principles can help keep you safe on the road, and prevent the unexpected.