A recent report in Consumer Reports covers the risks of big rigs on the road and it provides a largely balanced and accurate look at the issue of cars safely sharing the road with trucks.
 - Photo: Deborah Lockridge

A recent report in Consumer Reports covers the risks of big rigs on the road and it provides a largely balanced and accurate look at the issue of cars safely sharing the road with trucks.

Photo: Deborah Lockridge

When I see a headline like “Reducing the Risks of Big Rigs” in a mainstream publication, I often open the article with trepidation. What did they get wrong this time? Did they even bother to get trucking’s perspective? So I was pleasantly surprised by this report in the August issue of Consumer Reports, which provides a largely balanced and accurate look at the issue of cars safely sharing the road with trucks.

Yes, it starts out with language designed to get the readers’ attention about the “classic confrontation” between trucks and cars, “one with increasingly deadly results.” But that's just accurately pointing out, albeit in a dramatically worded way, that deaths from crashes involving large trucks have been rising; we’ve reported on it ourselves.

But it also explains to readers that truckers aren’t the enemy.

“While some motorists complained to CR on Facebook that some truckers drive aggresively, most commenters said truckers are courteous and professional. And research makes it clear that passenger vehicles are a big part of the problem,” as the author reports on a study often cited by trucking that found 70% of truck-car crashes are at least partially caused by the car driver.

Much of the piece centers on the question of advanced safety systems and whether they should be mandated on commercial trucks. A sidebar addresses the question of underride guards and whether they should be made stronger and whether side guards should be required. There’s a balanced look at self-driving trucks, comments about how dangerous distracted drivers are behind the wheel of passenger vehicles, and there’s a lot of good information for passenger-vehicle drivers about what to do and not to do when driving around trucks.

The article seems to rely heavily on a report late last year from Securing America’s Future Energy, a Washington, D.C., think tank. At first blush you might wonder what an energy think tank has to do with truck safety systems, but the same advanced driver assistance systems that can help prevent crashes also can be used for fuel-saving driving strategies and even used as part of platooning.

Consumer Reports also quotes people from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is pushing for mandatory features such as side underride guards on trailers, wants to lower the speed limit for trucks, and has said it believes technology such as collision mitigation and lane departure warning on trucks would save a lot of lives. (Some in the industry are skeptical as to whether all advanced driver assistance systems are ready for a mandate. In fact a recent IIHS study found that over-reliance on safety systems could actually cause crashes. While the study dealt with passenger cars, there are certainly implications for the technology in trucks as well.)

The magazine also cites groups like the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, truck drivers themselves, and UPS, which lowered its accident rate last year. UPS spokesman Dan McMackin tells CR that every driver on the road needs more training, noting that "What we as adults demonstrate to our kids is critical. "If we are on our phones and doing our makeup or eating while driving, that is what our children will see as accepted practice."

Overall, it was a balanced and reasonable look at the issue of sharing the road.

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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