NTSB made its recommendation to end alcohol and other drug impairment stronger by listing in the...

NTSB made its recommendation to end alcohol and other drug impairment stronger by listing in the number-two spot.

Image via NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board’s latest “Most Wanted List” of transportation safety improvements underscores issues of wide and lasting concern to safety proponents in the trucking industry.

Topping the newest top ten list, the 2019-2020 edition, is eliminating distraction. The scourge that is distracted driving also headed the 2017-2018 list.

But last time around, the number-two spot went to reducing fatigue-related accidents, which now checks in at number eight. The new deuce is ending alcohol and other drug impairment. That should not be surprising with the nation awash in the opioid crisis and dealing with liberalized marijuana laws while still not having truly come to terms with how to eliminate the carnage wrought by drunk drivers.

The third slot was given to ensuring the safe transport of hazardous materials, which appeared last on the list last time out.

Number five on the 2019-2020 list calls for implementing a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeding-related crashes. The NTSB recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop performance standards for “advanced speed-limiting technology, such as variable speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation devices,” for heavy vehicles, including trucks.

There had been a push to mandate truck speed limiters. But that ran out of gas back in the summer of 2017, in the face of the Trump Administration's push to cut federal regulations.

All told, of ten improvements sought by NTSB this time around, eight of them touch on trucking to one degree or another, including one seeking collision avoiding technology— or automatic braking— “in all new highway vehicles.”

“The new list certainly highlights some of the top issues that pertain to unsafe driving – speeding and distractions,” David Heller, vice president of Government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, told HDT. 

“Impaired driving certainly remains high, too,” he continued. “These are all issues that are important to TCA and its members, especially as we wait for guidance that would incorporate hair testing into our DOT drug testing protocols.”

“The Trucking Alliance supports these NTSB recommendations,” Lane Kidd, managing director of the safety-advocacy group told HDT. “For example, NTSB’s call for stricter drug testing of truck drivers focuses on a real problem, especially when you consider that trucking companies are missing almost nine of ten drug users when relying on DOT’s current drug test methods.

“Other NTSB priorities, such as truck speed limiters, automatic brakes and a database of people who fail a pre-employment drug test will help us reduce large truck crashes,” he added.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the new list “advocates for 46 specific safety recommendations that can and should be implemented during these next two years. It also features broad, longstanding safety issues that still threaten the traveling public.”

Sumwalt pointed out on Feb. 4 event in Washington, D.C., that “the NTSB can speak on these issues. We board members can testify by invitation to legislatures and to Congress, but we have no power of our own to act. We are counting on industry, advocates, and government to act on our recommendations.  We are counting on the help of the broader safety community to implement these recommendations.”

There are 267 open NTSB safety recommendations associated with the lasted list. NTSB has stated it is focused “on seeing 46 of those implemented within the next two years. The majority of these recommendations, roughly two-thirds of the 267, seek critical safety improvements by means other than regulation. Of the 46 safety recommendations the NTSB wants implemented in the next two years, 20 seek regulatory action to improve transportation safety.”

First issued in 1990, the Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements serves as the agency’s primary advocacy tool to help save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce property damage resulting from transportation accidents, according to NTSB.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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