When you see a semitrailer truck in North Carolina, do you ever wonder how many hours it’s been since the driver of the rig took a break? Driver fatigue is a very real problem, as we have noted on at least one other occasion on this blog.
In that particular post, we made note of a report that indicated that truck accidents have been steadily rising over the past few years. And the National Transportation Safety Board is on record as estimating that more than 30 percent of all truck accidents are likely attributable to driver fatigue.
Whether that is true remains a subject of a lot of debate, but it isn’t a point the NTSB is willing to cede. In fact, the federal agency tasked with investigating accidents involving all things transportation recently stated again that the issue of truck safety is one that federal regulators need to put on the front burner once again for 2015.
It’s critical to keep in mind that the NTSB doesn’t make the rules, it can only recommend changes based on its investigations to other agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It does so regularly and this year, the NTSB noted that it has offered more than 100 suggestions, but that none of them have been acted upon.
To be fair, the FMCSA did institute rules to reduce effects of truck driver fatigue. They took effect in 2013. But Congress, pressed by the trucking industry, acted late last year to suspend them pending regulator research into whether the rules actually increased risks by leading more trucks to be on the road during the busiest times of day — morning and evening rush hours.
The NTSB says it still believes the anti-fatigue rules are worth having, so they are calling for the issue to be a top priority this year. In addition, they say the adoption of anti-collision technology should be stepped up and that companies with particularly bad accident records should face stronger oversight.
Whether these calls will lead to a curb on accidents due to truck driver negligence is something only time will tell. But NTSB officials say with deaths and injuries on the rise, the time is ripe for action.