Back in 2016, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) released a report that indicated a trucking safety investment of $9.5 billion was being made on an annual basis. The ATA research that supported that conclusion was reached by culling together information from four specific categories — onboard technology, driver training, safety pay, and regulatory compliance. While the commitment to trucking safety remains high, fatalities have climbed in recent years. It is crucial for industry leadership at the ATA maintain its commitment to trucking safety.
Why Was the 2016 ATA Study Important?
At the time the study was released, large truck accidents and fatalities were considered relatively low. But the industry has suffered higher death rates in recent years, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. In fact, large truck collision deaths had shown an increase from 695 in 2013 to 885 in 2018. The high level of investment would seem counterintuitive to the increased rates of trucking industry crash deaths over the last five years of complete data. This is how the $9.5 billion trucking safety investment broke down in 2016, according to the ATA report.
- Trucking Safety Training — 36 percent
- Regulatory Compliance with Trucking Safety Rules — 26 percent
- Onboard Trucking Safety Technology — 25 percent
- Truck Driver Safety Pay — 13 percent
One would anticipate a far better outcome, given that massive annual investment into trucking safety. The alternative way to look at the return on investment is to consider how many truckers would have lost their lives without enhanced safety training, technology, and incentives that make CDL professionals mindfully aware of imminent trucking safety risks. Many in the industry are pleased to keep training and compliance initiatives in place and continue their commitment by increasing safe technologies for truckers.
Massive Trucking Safety Tech Investments Made
The trucking industry reportedly leveraged upwards of $3.6 billion in 2018 toward improved technology alone. Many of the cutting-edge advancements are specifically designed to support trucking safety. Others target increase profitability through enhanced logistics or peripheral issues. But regardless of the primary reason to invest in trucking technology, the vast majority have at least some positive influence on trucking safety. These are trucking safety advancements that drivers and fleet operators can expect in the near future, according to experts.
- Multi-Lane Autonomous Emergency Braking
- Lane Departure Alerts
- Blind Spot Detection Alerts
- Highway Departure Braking
- Improved Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems
- Improved Anti-Roll Braking Systems
Many of the advanced trucking safety technologies involve integrating more cameras into new models and retrofitting these advanced warning systems into existing semi-trucks and fleets. Along with the preventable and tragic loss of life, trucking industry accidents cost companies upwards of $20 billion in financial losses annually. Those are critical reasons why investment in trucking safety technology is expected to top $4 billion in 2019.
How Trucking Companies Can Reduce Risk
Research supports the idea that trucking safety is grounded in an operation’s culture. A study conducted with the support of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Travelers reviewed the steps companies took to improve their safety records. Focusing on nine trucking companies that included one deemed “high risk” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), improved safety records were linked to a culture change that ran consistently from the boardroom to the hard-working men and women behind the wheel and everyone in between.
The project indicates that trucking safety requires well-documented hiring standards. It’s essential to start the day with the right people on a given team if completing a safe shift is the end goal. This philosophy extends to team members, including warehouse personnel, administration, logistics supervisors, and CDL holders, among others. Once a trustworthy team is in place, carriers that demonstrated improvement utilize these policies.
- Open door policy for drivers to discuss safety concerns
- Conveying industry-wide safety concerns between drivers and management
- Tweaking work schedules to reduce potential driver fatigue
- Providing detailed materials about the company’s safety culture and expectations during orientation
- Requiring all employees to participate in ongoing trucking safety education and training
- Implementing a zero-tolerance policy on issues such as hours-of-service transgressions
- Resisting the temptation to fill positions with untrustworthy personnel due to worker shortages
The study also supported the controversial use of cameras in truck driver cabs. Many truck drivers see this as an invasion of privacy despite the insistence the data collected may be used as an instructional tool. The findings also pointed out that companies that simply implemented new rules without full engagement saw only nominal safety gains.
How CDL Pros Can Commit to Trucking Safety
According to NHTSA information, large truck fatalities increased while the number of deaths resulting from passenger vehicle accidents declined. Some trucking industry professionals have attributed that statistic to truckers failing to wear seat belts and take other routine safety precautions. By following a regular maintenance schedule and completing a pre-trip inspection, every driver may complete their run safely and reinforce a commitment to trucking safety.
Minimize Lane Changes
The overwhelming majority of CDL holders adhere to highway speed limits and drive safely. But the reality of being on the road is that not all passenger vehicle drivers conduct themselves well. There will be motor vehicle operators traveling below the minimum speed limit and others racing around and tailgating. It’s in a trucker's best interest to stay in a clear lane and minimize changes whenever possible.
Take Timely Driving Breaks
Although federal regulations place stringent hours-of-service restrictions on drivers, it’s also in safety’s best interest to consider pulling into a rest area or truck stop to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Don’t be afraid to just pull over and power nap if you feel fatigued. The body is not regulated by government guidelines.
Take Weather Conditions Seriously
Severe weather plays a significant role in diminished trucking safety. Navigating high-altitude Colorado stretches of road or the icy Dalton Highway in Alaska can be risky. It’s essential to not procrastinate about implementing severe weather equipment or waiting out a storm.
Safe Distance Matters
Non-professionals tend to feel safe while operating a vehicle freely. But, in reality, you are only driving safely if you can effectively stop in an emergency. Give more than a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you whenever possible. There’s no telling what they might do to cause an accident and halt traffic unexpectedly.
It’s also imperative that semi-trucks are safety inspected and fully maintained at all times. The increase in truck fatalities in recent years weighs on us all with a heavy heart. This valuable information about trucking safety should be reviewed and shared to help save lives.