A tragic truck accident that occurred in 2009 on an interstate highway in Oklahoma is serving as a strong catalyst to promote frank and wide-ranging discussions among safety advocates and regulators and the truck industry regarding industry rules and recent recommendations.
That accident was truly horrific, with 10 people dying after an overly fatigued driver of a big rig traveling approximately 70 miles per hour barreled into stalled traffic.
The incident is central in the minds of National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") administrators, who convened a forum last week to talk about truck safety and current developments.
There is a sense of urgency concerning big trucks on America's roadways. Although fatalities involving tractor-trailers and other large rigs have gone down in recent years, the NTSB attributes that primarily to a decline in driving owing to a stalled economy. Many safety experts fear that an economic resurgence will sharply reverse the trend.
Media reports often refer to the "sparring" between government regulators and trucking industry officials concerning the best methods for increasing road safety and reducing deadly accidents. The NTSB has proposed that truckers drive fewer hours each day, take mandatory rest breaks and spend more time away from the road after they reach a weekly driving limit. The agency also wants every large commercial truck to have an on-board device that automatically records the driver's time spent behind the wheel.
The trucking industry opposes most of the suggestions, saying that the current federal rules regarding truckers' hours and breaks have already made the nation's highways safer than ever before.
Making additional changes, says a senior vice president at the American Trucking Associations, "would do a great deal of harm to this industry and wouldn't improve safety."
Related Resource: Associated Press, "Panel to focus on deadly truck, bus accidents" May 10, 2011