Deaths on U.S. roads soared to a 16-year high in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s estimate of traffic fatalities. An estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from 2020 and the highest number of fatalities since 2005. And fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck were up 13% over 2020. (Note: NHTSA defines “large trucks” as those over 10,000 pounds.)
The Department of Transportation unveiled its first-ever National Roadway Safety Strategy. And there are calls for a paradigm shift to the Safe System Approach, which takes a holistic view of the entire highway system, from planning to design to use, to improve the safety of all road users. There’s increased emphasis on protecting “vulnerable road users” — pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Trucking-specific safety regulations continue to go into effect and new (or reincarnated) proposals unveiled:
New entry-level driver training requirements went into effect Feb. 7.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration completed a final rule upgrading requirements for rear underride guards — and is turning its attention to side underride guards.
- The DOT proposed oral fluid testing as an alternative to urine testing for required drug and alcohol testing, but similar rules for hair-testing remain in limbo.
- A proposal to mandate speed limiters recently wrapped up its comment period.
It’s no wonder nearly half of fleet professionals surveyed in the second annual HDT/Work Truck fleet safety survey said they sometimes feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the safety regulations being introduced (43%) — and with trying to keep up with all the safety solutions being introduced (46%).
In this article, we highlight survey results, including insights into how they compared to last year, key safety strategies, and safety technologies used.
Our inbox at HDT (and no doubt of fleet safety professionals across the country) is full of announcements of the latest enhancements to advanced safety technologies, in-cab cameras, and artificial-intelligence-powered solutions.
We asked our survey-takers about current safety technologies and what they’re planning to adopt. Nearly half already use speed limiters, and nearly one-fifth plan to implement backup cameras in the next year.
Just How Limited Should Truck Speed Limiters Be?
Nearly half of survey respondents have seen their vehicle and liability insurance costs increase between 1% and 25% in the past year. We hear a lot about “nuclear verdicts” driving up those costs, but it’s not just the big verdicts at fault. The smaller claims — the ones that happen thousands of times a day and result in non-catastrophic injuries such as neck, back and shoulder problems and soft-tissue injuries — are now costing the industry more money than ever before.
Some fleets invest in safety technology to help them defend themselves when a crash is not their fault, in addition to the goal of preventing accidents in the first place. And insurance companies are looking to telematics data to help them write policies for motor carriers.
More About the Survey
For the second year, HDT conducted a joint safety survey with sister publication Work Truck. The median fleet size of those responding was 75, and 81% had Class 8 trucks. 40% of respondents were private fleets, 37% were for-hire fleets, and 15% were government fleets. The most common industries represented were general freight, construction/mining, and manufacturing.
This data and analysis first appeared in the August 2022 special Fact Book issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.