For a while now, the National Transportation Safety Board has been looking at ways to make tractor-trailers safer for their drivers and for the vehicles they share the road with. The NTSB, however, is chiefly an independent investigative body; the board can only make recommendations. The formal adoption and enforcement of safety standards falls to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Coming up with the recommendations and formalizing them into enforceable standards are both processes that can take years to complete. Regulatory work does not advance at a leisurely pace exactly, but it is a more deliberate pace than some would like. Changes to safety standards, it seems, take the scenic route from idea to implementation. But many ideas come from accident investigations, and the apparent lack of progress can be frustrating for the people involved in the accidents.
It's hard not to imagine that victims and their families are thinking that there must be a way to keep what happened to them from happening to others. It's hard to imagine, too, that truckers and their employers aren't thinking the same thing.
For the NTSB, there are design issues and data collection issues that must be addressed if we want to reduce the number and severity of accidents. The board addresses those issues in a set of recommendations delivered recently to the NHTSA.
At the top of the board's list are a tractor-trailer's blind spots. Running a close second are side and rear underrides. We'll talk about them more in our next post.
The Trucker, "NTSB offers 7 recommendations to improve truck safety," The Trucker News Services, April 4, 2014
National Transportation Safety Board, Safety Recommendations to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, April 3, 2014 accessed online at NTSB.gov