Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board held a two-day forum to discuss commercial trucking and busing safety among federal regulators, industry representatives and safety advocates. The Associated Press reports that the focus of the forum was prevention of deadly accidents and understanding why past safety recommendations have not been enacted or implemented yet.
The number of fatal commercial-trucking accidents has decreased in recent years. In 2005 there were more than 5,200 fatalities from semi-truck accidents, while in 2009 there were about 3,200, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Although this represents some progress in improving commercial-truck safety, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said there is still much more work to be done.
In fact, the NTSB has made about 100 safety recommendations that have not been adopted by regulators or busing and trucking industries. For example, the NTSB recommended that buses have seat belts installed for all passengers way back in 1968. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only proposed a rule requiring seat belts on new buses in 2010. The rule is not final, though, and it would not apply to buses already in service.
In addition, several strategies have been proposed by the Obama administration to reduce the number of trucking and busing accidents. One recommendation is to require vehicles to have devices installed that record the number of hours a driver has been driving the vehicle. Another is to limit daily driving hours to 10 hours and to cap the number of hours a person can drive a commercial truck or bus each week at 60 hours.
There are several truck- and bus-driver behaviors, like fatigued or inattentive driving, that may constitute negligence and result in a serious truck or bus accident. If so, someone injured by a driver’s negligent action or failure to take action may be able to sue the driver in a personal-injury lawsuit. If a judge or jury finds the driver was negligent and caused the person’s injuries, the driver, his or her employer and also the insurance company may be ordered to pay damages to the victim for his or her injuries and medical treatment.