Traffic accidents are an ongoing concern among truck drivers and commercial vehicle operators. The larger the vehicle, the larger the risk of severe injury or fatalities. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have teamed up to combat these risks and better protect drivers on the road. Here’s a look at how their efforts may improve safety measures moving forward.
Top Causes of Truck Driving Accidents
Some traffic accidents are outside of anyone’s control, but many can be prevented with safe driving techniques. Common causes of truck driving accidents include:
- Distracted driving (eating, scrolling on a cell phone, changing music stations, etc.)
- Speeding or following too closely to other vehicles
- Driver fatigue
- Not slowing down in work zones
- Not wearing a seatbelt
There are regulations in place to curb some of these issues, like requiring drivers to take a break after driving a certain length of time. Nevertheless, the FMCSA and NHTSA are working to improve driving conditions even further.
Safety Improvements to Reduce Accident Risks
Earlier this year, FMCSA and NHTSA released a Rulemaking Report highlighting upcoming safety changes for truck drivers. Here are some key improvements they plan to implement in the near future:
- Introducing automated driving systems for commercial motor vehicles. This plan has long been in the works, but they’re updating safety protocols before putting these vehicles on the road.
- Equipping select heavy vehicles with automatic emergency braking. This is just a proposal for now, but NHTSA has been researching forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) systems for several years.
- Installing speed limited devices on heavy vehicles. If enacted, this would become a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.
- Clarifying exemptions to Hours of Service of Drivers regulations. Under the current rules, most agricultural transports are exempt from HOS regulations. This means they’re not required to take breaks or limit their driving times like other CMV operators. FMCSA aims to clarify which drivers qualify for the exemption to boost safety in rural areas.
The Rulemaking Report also showcased upcoming changes in aviation, railway operations, and much more.
What Happens after a Traffic Accident?
After a truck driver is involved with an accident, they must report for post-accident drug and alcohol testing (in most cases). There are a few stipulations that would deem that unnecessary, but drivers should be prepared for drug testing.
If the driver passes the drug and alcohol test, he or she can resume work. If the driver fails the test, he or she will need to complete the Return-to-Duty process before being released for safety-sensitive job duties. This process involves working with a DOT certified SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) and completing a series of personalized tasks. After the RTD program, the employee can pursue safety-sensitive work from their former employer or a new employer. The Department of Transportation does not decide who loses their job or not.