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Fleet Group Questions NTSB Straight Truck Safety Recommendations

August 20, 2013

By Evan Lockridge

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The NAFA Fleet Management Association has raised concerns about straight truck safety recommendations issued earlier this summer by the National Transportation Safety Board.

This group, representing those who manage more than 3.5 million vehicles in fleets of sedans, public safety vehicles, trucks, and buses, says the board made no distinction between vehicles in a managed fleet versus those operated by the casual driver or within unmanaged fleets.

NTSB said it found through a five-year study that single-unit trucks are involved in a disproportionate share of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multivehicle crashes in relation to the number of registered vehicles and vehicle-miles of travel.

One of the remedies it included in its recommendations was the need for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to research the potential benefits of expanding the commercial driver's licensure requirement to lower  truckweight classes.

The recommendations have now been sent to the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NAFA argues the NTSB study, entitled Crashes Involving Single-Unit Trucks that Resulted in Injuries and Death, needs a more detailed analysis, which it says would show the safety record of managed fleets is significantly better than what the board found.

In a letter to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, NAFA Executive Director Phillip Russo asked that the agency include NAFA as a stakeholder during their analysis and assessment period concerning NTSB’s recommendations. Russo expressed NAFA’s concern with the study’s finding that drivers of single-unit trucks in fatal crashes were more likely to have invalid licenses than the drivers of tractor-trailers involved in fatal crashes. 

“While this may be true for some trucks,” he said, “it is not relevant to drivers of single-unit trucks in managed fleets. For many reasons, including insurance, fleets are scrupulous about ensuring that drivers are properly licensed.”

NAFA also sent a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, saying NAFA's Safety Advisory Council was undertaking a detailed review of the NTSB recommendations, and offered to share the conclusions from the council's review.

NTSB issued a total of nine recommendations to NHTSA, four to FMCSA, one to the Federal Highway Administration and two to the U.S. Transportation Department.

Recommendation areas include:

  • requiring modifications to enhance the ability of drivers of single-unit trucks to detect pedestrians and cyclists,
  • side underride protection systems for newly manufactured single-unit trucks,
  • rear underride protection systems on newly manufactured single-unit trucks and
  • conspicuity treatments on the sides and rears of single-unit trucks.

The NTSB also recommended improving federal and state data on large truck crashes (including the use of vehicle identification numbers to improve the coding of large trucks involved in crashes), and examining the frequency and consequences of single-unit truck drivers operating with an invalid license among others.

Russo also questioned the NTSB suggestion that requiring a CDL to operate single-unit trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings less than 26,001 pounds might be an effective measure.

"We believe that a CDL requirement for all single-unit trucks would be disproportionate to the risks associated with single-unit truck safety in the fleet environment.”

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