New trucking regulations could potentially improve safety on Kentucky roads, yet significant hurdles stand in the way of implementation. Trucking accidents pose a significant risk of severe injuries and death to pedestrians and occupants of smaller vehicles. Data shows that a particular type of tractor-trailer crash, the side-impact, is responsible for more deaths than other impact types. Underride guards have proven capable of reducing the risk of fatality in these types of collisions, but a political environment wary of new regulations has yet to adopt it nationally.
A study by the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence indicates that trucking companies can improve performance by prioritizing safety. Management strategies and the implementation of advanced safety technologies can greatly improve the safety of trucks operating in Kentucky and across the country, according to the study. The research was a joint effort by the NSTSCE, the National Safety Council, state trucking organizations, and commercial insurer Travelers. All of the fleets studied experienced fewer crashes and less severe crashes, along with better safety scores.
Truck drivers in Kentucky should take precautions in bad weather to avoid causing accidents. They might be more likely to hydroplane in an empty big rig and might need to pull over in some types of weather.
The Department of Transportation plans to change its regulations concerning the number of hours that drivers of commercial trucks in Kentucky and the rest of the United States are allowed to be behind the wheel. The trucking industry has long advocated for a relaxation of the working limits established by federal rules for truckers. Safety advocates assert that loosening the regulations will cause safety hazards caused by tired drivers.
Large truck accidents in Kentucky and around the country claimed 4,761 lives in 2017, and the 415,000 collisions involving large commercial vehicles killed 600 truck drivers and injured a further 148,000. The Washington, DC-based Alliance for Driver Safety & Security is working to reduce these numbers, and the trade group, which includes some of the nation's largest trucking companies, recently submitted a list of proposals to lawmakers on the House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
Any kind of motor vehicle accident can have serious consequences, but truck accidents may lead to some additional complexities. One reason is that the size of the truck simply means that more damage is likely. This size also means an accident takes up more space on the roadway, raising the likelihood of additional accidents.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance understands that increasing traffic law enforcement is one way of reducing car crashes in Kentucky and across the U.S. For this reason, the CVSA designates one week out of every year as Operation Safe Driver Week; during this period, law enforcement personnel track for unsafe driving behaviors and issue warnings and citations.
Truck drivers in Kentucky often drive for long hours over dark and monotonous stretches of highway. While operator fatigue may seem to be a natural result of the job, it can also be a cause of severe and even deadly trucking crashes. Fatigued truckers are responsible for massive semi-trucks with substantial size, weight and volume. These big rigs can cause a lot of damage when accidents happen. While trucking is critical to many industries, experts continue to raise concerns that the schedules maintained by the industry may not be sufficiently limited to protect safety.
Large truck crashes are leading to more deaths in Kentucky and elsewhere in the country. In 2017, there were 4,102 large truck crash fatalities: 28 percent more than in 2009. Of those, 68 percent were car occupants, and 14 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Incidents where large trucks rear-end cars are especially frequent as well as severe in terms of injuries and damage.
At the 2019 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, an officer from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration discussed some very disappointing news about the rate of fatal accidents involving trucks on roads in Kentucky and throughout the nation. From the years 2015 to 2017, large-truck-occupant deaths increased as did the percentage of all fatal crashes involving at least one large truck. While many factors contribute to this problem, lowering the rates of fatalities may ultimately be in the truck driver's hand.