In order to increase highway safety, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that the government require drivers of medium-duty straight trucks to get a commercial driver’s license. Reportedly, a study conducted over a five-year period from 2005-2009 found that a disproportionate amount of fatalities involve this type of truck.
In addition the NTSB is recommending that straight trucks are made subject to safety rules similar to those that apply to tractor-trailers. For example, requirements for blind spot technology, underride protection, underride guards, and enhanced conspicuity.
Single-unit trucks are defined as large trucks with cargo units that are not detachable, all axles on a single frame, and a gross vehicle rating exceeding 10,000 pounds. According to Deborah A. P. Hershman, the NTSB Chairman, “Crashes involving single-unit trucks resulted in about 1,800 deaths each year during 2005-2009 and also caused thousands of injuries. These trucks are ubiquitous in our communities, yet they are exempted from many safety rules. We must do better for our citizens.”
The NTSB is unable to force the DOT and DOT agencies to create new rules, but it can make recommendations. The NTSB made recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These recommendations included modifications that would help drivers detect cyclists and pedestrians, improve visibility on unlit and dark roads, and prevent smaller vehicles from underriding the sides and rear of these trucks.
In addition, according to the NTSB’s findings, adverse effects of crashes involving these trucks have been underestimated because they are often misclassified and undercounted in state and federal databases. Therefore, the NTSB also recommended improved state and federal data on trucking accidents involving medium-duty straight trucks. The NTSB also recommended that though the state Crash Outcome Data Evaluation Systems and Trucks in Fatal Accidents are slated to be discontinued, they are needed to provide an accurate picture of the safety of large trucks.