ATLANTA — Road Safe America Tuesday federal crash data it had analyzed showed that all but six U.S. states had increases in big-rig truck crash deaths from 2009 to 2017, the most recent year of available data.
From 2009 through 2017, a total of 35,882 people died in large truck crashes, the organization said in a news release.
“The sad fact is that many of these deaths could have been avoided if use of existing speed limiting and automatic emergency braking technologies had been the law,” said Steve Owings, co-founder of the highway-safety non-profit Road Safe America.
Statistics show that from 2009 to 2016, miles driven by heavy commercial trucks slightly decreased while the crashes involving them continually increased.
The data shows the top five states with the greatest number of truck crash fatalities in 2017 were in order: Texas, California, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
The five states with the largest percentage increases in truck crash deaths from 2009 to 2017 were, in order of greatest increase – Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Texas and Nevada.
“Most of the states in this top five list have truck speed limits of 70 mph or more,” Owings said. “There is no good reason for big rigs that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, or more in some states, to be operating at speeds this high since they cannot stop in the same distance in an emergency as vehicles with which they share the roads.
“Yet, unlike many other leading nations, our country does not require the use of automatic emergency braking or even speed limiters, which would help to save lives of people in passenger vehicles and professional truck drivers, too. In fact, required use of speed limiters is so prevalent around the world that they have been built into America’s big-rig trucks since the 1990s. So, all that is needed is a requirement to turn them on and set them at a reasonable top speed such as 65 mph. A recent national survey found 80 percent of voters across all demographics join us in calling for these requirements.”
In 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposed equipping heavy-duty vehicles with devices that limit their speeds on U.S. roadways, and requiring those devices be set to a maximum speed, a safety measure that could save lives and more than $1 billion in fuel costs each year.
However, the NPRM never gained any traction.
Most industry stakeholders said the initiative fell victim to President Donald Trump’s order to reduce federal regulatory efforts.
Owings said speed governors improve truck safety by limiting the top speed a truck can travel, thus allowing a truck driver to have more time to avoid a crash or reduce the severity of crashes that do still occur.
Most big-rigs already use them for this same reason and because doing so saves fuel, improving profitability, he said.
Automatic emergency braking also enhances safety on our roads by alerting truck drivers of slow-moving and non-moving objects and then applying the brakes if the drivers fail to for whatever reason, Owings said.
“Road Safe America encourages all trucking companies who have not already done so, to cap the maximum speed of their fleets by setting their speed limiters at 65mph and to install AEB on every truck,” Owings said. “We also encourage the public to learn more about these life-saving technologies by visiting our website: www.roadsafeamerica.org.