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NTSB to NHTSA: Open your eyes to tractor-trailer safety issues p3

We are continuing our discussion from our last post about the National Transportation Safety Board's report on tractor-trailer safety. The board suggests that the current standards should be updated to take new technology and recent research into consideration. The report was sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in early April and asked that the agency respond within 90 days. That response should include details of how the NTSB's concerns are being addressed or will be addressed in the future.

The first area of concern is blind spots inherent to tractor-trailers. The height of the cab and common configuration of side mirrors leaves much of the area around a rig to the driver's imagination. The area to the right of a truck, for example, can be as much as a full lane wide and can obscure a number of passenger vehicles. Right-hand merges and right turns are particularly dangerous as a result.

The NTSB recommends that manufacturers be required to equip new truck-tractors -- the part of a rig pulling the load -- with more advanced mirrors or other systems that improve visibility for the driver. Several cities, for example, require heavy trucks to have crossover mirrors installed. These mirrors greatly improve visibility close to the truck-tractor and have helped to reduce accidents with pedestrians and bicycles in particular.

Another problem that comes with being so much higher than passenger vehicles is underride. On impact, the smaller vehicle slides under the higher one. The chance of underride increases the likelihood of serious injury or death in rear-end and side-impact accidents.

We'll review suggestions for ways to reduce the risk of underride and the last of the NTSB's recommendations in our next post.

Sources: 

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

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