Posts Tagged ‘highway safety’

Highway regulators calling for better truck safety

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Since 2009, fatalities related to large truck road accidents have increased by 17%. In 2013, that number rose to 3,964 fatalities, the fourth straight year of increases. This bucks the trend of vehicle-related fatalities overall, which have been steadily decreasing. Fatalities involving large trucks and buses represent about 4% of the overall annual vehicle-related fatality total.

The increase in fatalities has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to call for tighter commercial trucking regulations.

Despite the annual uptick, NTSB says that more than 100 recommendations for improved truck safety have not come to fruition. And worse, instead of strengthening measures, it would appear that legislators rolled back safety-related regulations:

“Congress last year weakened regulations designed to reduce trucker fatigue. Lawmakers targeted a portion of a rule closing a loophole that kept some drivers from working 82 hours over eight days, according to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. That provision won’t be enforced for at least a year as regulators conduct research to see if it had an unintended effect of forcing more trucks onto the road during rush hours. “

NTSB has included the need for a strengthening in commercial trucking on it 2015 Most Wanted List. Among some of the recommendations, NTSB says:

“Regulators have taken initial steps by maintaining science-based hours of service rules and are in the process of rulemaking mandating electronic logging devices that can help assure that drivers are adequately rested. Other important rulemaking initiatives include requirements to screen drivers for obstructive sleep apnea, other potentially impairing medical conditions, and potentially impairing drugs.”

Truck driver safety
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) truck drivers are six times more likely to be killed on the job than other workers. The trucking Industry is among the top 5 most catastrophic occupations. According to a 1992 article in the Journal of Public Health Policy:

“In the 1992 study, over one thousand long haul tractor-trailer drivers were interviewed by a research team over four months, and almost three-quarters of the respondents said they self-reported violations of Hours-of-Service rules. Two-thirds said they “routinely” drive more than legal weekly maximums. Those long hours in the driver’s seat lead to decreased attentiveness and heightened rates of fatigue, creating prime conditions for unwanted accidents and catastrophic injuries.”

One excellent resource for trucker safety is TIRES (Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis), a research project developed by the SHARP program at the Washington Department of Labor & Industries. SHARP’s research shows that trucking has some of the highest claims rates and costs in the State of Washington.

In addition to a wide range of training and safety information, TIRES an excellent Keep Trucking Safe Blog that we’ll be adding to the sidebar.


High hazard highway work zones: risky for workers and motorists alike

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Pop quiz: 1) In highway construction zones, do most fatalities occur A) to the vulnerable workers who are standing in the work zone while thousands of cars and trucks speed by, or B) to the motorists in the cars and trucks that are speeding by?
2) Are most highway construction workers killed by A) being struck by passing motorists or B) being struck by construction vehicles?
If you guessed “A” for both answers, you are correct.
Motorist safety in highway work zones
Highway construction projects pose hazards for drivers and workers alike, but about 85% of the vehicle-related fatalities that occur in work zones each year involve motorists. Lane changes,uneven surfaces, stop and go traffic, driver impatience at delays, unpredictable occurrences, and poor night visibility are all factors that make these zones hazardous. For those who need further incentive for caution than self preservation, bear in mind that 32 states and the District of Columbia double the fine for speeding (or committing other traffic violations) in a work zone. The Governors’ Highway Safety Administration offers a handy state by state chart of work zone traffic laws.
One of the best safety strategies a driver can take is avoidance: seek an alternate route. The Department of Transportation offers national traffic and road closure information to help drivers plan in advance – or drivers can check with state transportation authorities – most offer alerts about major construction projects. For those who can’t avoid a construction route, the Wisconsin DOT offers tips for safe driving in a work zone. The tip sheet notes that work zones requiring special caution encompass more than just highway construction projects. They include emergency vehicles at the side of the road, snowplows, garbage pickups, landscapers and any situation where workers are at risk.
Worker safety in highway work zones
This spring, the NIOSH Science Blog featured an excellent post by David E. Fosbroke about construction equipment visibility. In the post, Fosbroke cites a multi-year study of 844 fatalities at road construction sites. While 73% of these fatalities occurred when workers were struck by vehicles, victims were killed by construction equipment at least as often as by passing motorists. And of the incidents when workers were killed by construction equipment, at least 50% of those fatalities involved vehicles backing up.
To help prevent such fatalities, NIOSH offers downloadable blind area diagrams of of 38 pieces of construction equipment and 5 pieces of mining equipment. These diagrams map out the area around a vehicle or piece of equipment that cannot be seen from the operator’s position. The post explains this and other issues related to highway construction safety – including some good observations in the comments section.
For additional information, The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse provides comprehensive information to improve motorist, worker and pedestrian safety in roadway work zones. Resource include links to related sites and training resources.
More safety resources:
NIOSH: Highway Work Zone
OSHA: Highway Work Zones and Signs, Signals, and Barricades

No bargains to be had in shortchanging trucking safety

Monday, March 21st, 2005

Most of us like bargains. We almost all feel good when we can save a few pennies here and a few dollars there at the grocery store or the mall. But when is a bargain not a bargain? Maybe when we trade the potential for saving a few cents with safety on our highways.
Recently, a new regulation proposed extending the number of hours that truckers can work each day from 14 to 16. Representative John Boozman (R-AK) sponsored the bill, which some have dubbed “the Wal-mart Amendment” because the world’s largest retailer has been in the forefront of pressing for the changes. It might more aptly be called the “What were they thinking” bill. This is one of those issues that concerns the safety of both the worker and the general public. About 5,000 people, more or less, are killed in big-rig fatalities each year. Let’s look at a few work driving fatality statistics from NIOSH:

  • From 1992 through 2001, roadway crashes were the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S., accounting for 13,337 civilian worker deaths (22% of all injury-related deaths).
  • Truck drivers, who are included among Transportation/Material Mover occupations, had a rate of 17.6 deaths per 100,000 FTE, a rate considerably higher than that for this occupation group as a whole.
  • Vehicles occupied by fatally injured workers were most often semi-trucks (3,780, 28%), cars (3,140, 24%), other and unspecified trucks (2,359, 18%), and pickup trucks (1,607, 12%).
  • Between 1992 and 2001, truck occupant deaths increased, as car occupant deaths decreased.
  • Crashes involving large trucks (more than 10,000 lb. gross vehicle weight rating) were 7 times as likely to be fatal to other motorists as to truck occupants. An average of 4,425 motorists involved in collisions with large trucks died each year from 1992 through 2001, compared to 681 large-truck occupants.

Long driving hours: a recipe for fatigue
The current Hours of Service were revised in 2004, extending the allowable hours for driving from 10 to 11, but limiting the maximum duty period down from 15 to 14 hours. The three non-driving hours are for breaks, meals, loading and unloading, etc. Proposed legislation would increase the hours of duty to 16 and the hours of driving to 14. Rep. Boozman seems to think this will increase driver safety.
The Asheville Daily Record frames the issue when they pose the questions “While locked onto the flank of an 18-wheeler in the narrow Pigeon River Gorge on a rainy day, have you ever wondered just how tired the driver of that spray-throwing behemoth next to you is?”
The Daily Record has been an advocate of truck and highway safety over the years. They have an excellent editorial on the topic entitled Trucker fatigue still an issue; give drivers a big say in any workday changes that will be available for a few more days before being archived. It�s worth a read. They point out that a 16-hour workday is the equivalent of two full workdays for most people, and suggest that the matter of hours be best left to federal regulators and the truckers themselves:
Settling on the best formula for truck drivers’ hours is best left to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), not to retailers and the trucking industry, which have much more interest in profits than what is best for the guys behind the wheel.
The FMCSA is in the midst of revising these rules, and should be gathering testimony from the truckers themselves. Congress should stay out of this process.

Boozman withdrew the bill last week in the wake of protest, but it is likely it will resurface again since some of the largest retailers are lobbying hard for extended trucking hours.
We’ve previously blogged about how extended hours and fatigue on the part of workers with a public trust can become a can become a public hazard. (See When injured workers meet tired doctors). From our perspective, tired workers are a hazard to themselves and to others. Extending trucker hours will result in more accidents and more deaths. Sometime later, public outrage and lawsuits will cause the pendulum to swing the other way again. In workers’ comp, it doesn’t take long to learn that cutting corners usually doesn’t pay – a short-term gain can be quickly outweighed by a long-term loss. There are no bargains when it comes to short-changing safety.
More resources
Work Related Roadway Crashes: Who’s at Risk
Truck Drivers Should Grab the Wheel When it Comes to Sleep Management
How to share the road with truckers
Driver Fatigue Quiz